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on 21 February 2013
At times I seemed to lose my way in this book. That might have been due to my lack of attention, but some sections read like little discrete essays and these sometimes seemed to derail the narrative of Cezanne's life. The section on pages 328 to 330, for example, is like a small essay on Cezanne's relationship with trees. However, this is a small criticism. As W.H. Auden observed, a shilling life will give you the facts and Alex Danchev's marvellous biography will give you far more than that. His motivation for writing the book appears to have been a burning desire to understand Cezanne's genius, and I doubt that there is a better reason for doing so. Towards the end of the book, and following a fascinating account of a meeting between two young artists and Cezanne in 1906, at the end of his life - a meeting that resulted in a remarkable series of photographs of Cezanne painting the Mont Saint-Victoire and which are reproduced in the book - he gets to the heart of the matter:

'At the core of the Cezannian revolution is a decisive shift in the emphasis of observation, from a description of the thing apprehended to the process of apprehension itself. Cezanne insisted that he painted things as they are, for what they are, as he saw them. The issue is what he saw - how he saw.'

Drawing extensively on the reactions of Cezanne's contemporaries and those who have ever since tried to understand his significance, Alex Danchev has, to my mind, written a profound and moving biography, and one that is worthy of its subject.
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on 13 January 2013
This life of Cezanne is well researched and makes alternative arguments about Cezanne which are enlightening. He comes across as a highly sensitive human being even though an very unusual one.
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on 29 May 2016
I gave up on this ramshackle biography fifty pages from the end. I believe I did well to get so far.
There's too much talk around the artist and too little about him. Also an excess of scholarly name dropping
and unnecessary, lengthy quotations.
For someone coming to the artist for the first time this is not the book. My personal favourite is John Rewald,s, the first I read,
and possible the best at creating a convincing portrait of the great man.
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on 23 June 2013
Reading this book, if you have the courage to get through the 373 pages of text (out of a total of 490) you will learn quite a lot about Emile Zola, Baudelaire, Mirbeau, Flaubert, Rilke, Kafka, Stendhal, even Virgil, to name but a few,but not very much about Cezanne - what it does tell you about him is buried in a mass of almost unreadable text. There's not much comment about the technical aspect of Cezanne's work, but then that's hardly surprising in a book written by a professor of international relations. The author uses this 'Life' to tell us, among other irrelevancies, all about the Drefus Affair, taking the opportunity to tell us that Renoir and Degas were anti-Semitic, though Pissarro, who was a friend of both, makes no mention of it in his published letters to his son Lucien. A far better introduction to Cezanne than this pretentious volume can be obtained from Catherine Dean's book 'Cezanne' and the one by Roberta Bernabei, both of which I would recommend. The one star awarded is for the illustrations, which are generally very good.
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on 31 July 2015
Not as easy a read as I thought it was going to be. Cezanne's life was not filled with fascinating incident. He lived almost exclusively an inner life, unlike some of those who followed him such as Picasso or Matisse. A biographer is obliged to flesh out the story with the lives of those who meant most to his subject. So what we have is a lot of Emil Zola, Cezanne's great childhood friend, in existential musings. This is not uninteresting but Danchev does draw it out a little too much. Where the author scores heavily is in his writing about Cezanne's progress as a painter and in discussing the paintings themselves. despite the longueurs, this is a worthwhile read.
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on 20 January 2013
While it is interesting to know of Cezannes early school life, perhaps there could have been more discussion abou this early pictures and what he thought or was aiming for in his early work. What was the principle influence on his first pictures?

T Matoff
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on 13 December 2013
We'll - I didn't think we needed another biography of Cezanne - but Danchev's books shows us we do! It's wonderful - very illuminating, clear-headed and richly informative. Well worth reading!
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on 18 May 2013
I learnt an awful lot about this great artist, especially interested in his lifelong friendship with Zola.. Wonderfully illustrated unlike so many biographies of artists nowadays.
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on 17 December 2013
An informative book about Cezanne with useful information about his paintings, his life and work. The illustrations were a helpful addition for anyone studying Cezanne.
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on 1 May 2013
I bought this book to look at his paintings but not a lot in this book. I've only read a chapter but find it very interesting. Written very eloquently and an indepth view of his life. Good for someone studying.
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