Cézanne and Modernism

The Poetics of Painting

By Joyce Medina

Subjects: Art
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791422328, 250 pages, January 1995
Hardcover : 9780791422311, 250 pages, January 1995

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



I. Cézanne and the Unity of Modernism

Modernism: Technique vs. Content

Cézanne: The Late Work

II.  From Impressionism to Cézanne: Psychological Theories

The Impression as Medium

The Redefinition of Sensation: Psychology and Epistemology

Psychological Positivism: Taine

Psychological Eclecticism: Psychophysics

Empathetic and Abstract Psychologism

The Bergsonian Synthesis

The Blending of Horizons: Bergson, Cézanne, Modernism

III. From Impressionism to Cézanne: Aesthetic Theories

The Impressionists: From Sensations to Signs

From Truth to Symbol: Optics and Color Science

The Symbolists: From Signs to Images

In Conclusion: Cézanne, the Potential Synthesis

IV.The Path into Modernism: Four Modalities of Imagery in Cézanne

The "Legendary" Cézanne

"Realization" in Nineteenth-Century Aesthetics

Cézanne's Early Period (1863-95)

Symbolic Images: Realization des Sensations

Cézanne's Experimental Period (1880-95)

Plastic Images: Realisation sur Nature



The Motif

The Period of Serialization (1890-1906)

Contemplative Images: Realisation du Motif

Visionary Images: Realisation du Motif

V.  Death and Non-Figuration: Cézanne's Ultimate Synthesis

The Pictorial Materials of the Imagination: Analytic Components and Antecedents of the Shifting Motif of The Cardplayers

The Narrative Materials of the Imagination: Scenes of Cardplaying and Card Fables as Sources of Emplotment

The Affective Materials: The Ugolino Drawing and Other Biographical Images as Indistinct Elements of Motif in The Cardplayers

Excursus: On the Mythology of Modern Death

Conclusion: The Trump Card/Players




This book explores how traditional relations among the arts have changed in our time, focusing on the radical transformation of Paul Cezanne.


This book explores the contemporary modification of traditional relations among the arts. Interpreting Cézanne as a founder of Modernism, it focuses on an aesthetics of the image (with roots in Bergson, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty) of equivalent value across the arts and in literature.

The author argues that Cézanne's transformation of traditional pictorial images and invention of radically new types of images resulted in the replacement of the mimetic motivation of the pictorial sign by symbolist, plastic, contemplative, and visionary motivations. These yielded four corresponding types of images all of which can be generally found together in all the great Modernist masters. After surveying the transformation of the image in the psychological theories of the nineteenth century, this investigation focuses on the Bergsonian philosophy of the image as a hermeneutical parallel of Cézanne's pictorial theory and practice. Included are original readings of the most important serial paintings of Cézanne, including the Mont. Ste.-Victoire, the Bathers, and the Cardplayers.


"Readers will be challenged by Medina's account, for her good book covers a lot of ground in an original way, successfully dealing with both visual materials and the texts she summarizes thus opening the way for fruitful future discussion." — David Carrier, Carnegie Mellon University