Rachel Cohen

Impressionism

Cézanne

Lenses

Monday, January 4, 2016

Today I got new lenses for my glasses.  After more than a month of squinting and blearing and pretending, my eyes knew themselves at last understood and the world came through with that almost bulging astonishing hyper-detail.  Learn the task again.  A half an hour, every few years, of seeing everything in the world at once. I was running errands and had not planned to go to the Fogg, but, feeling my sudden seeing, I turned left.  With which painting should I use this beautiful straining and adjusting sight?  I thought of a Beckmann triptych that has eluded [...] read more

Close Observation

Monday, January 20, 2014

A woman, long blue shirt carefully tied over striped skirt, sits in a red chair.  She leans a little to her right, our left, elbow on the arm of chair.  Her hands are folded. Cézanne’s way of painting faces means that you can look at them or not.  Everything has surfaces and depths.  Much of the meaning of the figure is not in the face.  The folded hands are important and beautiful. Between the forefingers and thumbs are a green that relates them to the skirt below, a blue consonant with the blue shirt above.  Shapes of laced [...] read more

The Large Bathers

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Since my father’s death I’ve been twice to look at the Cézanne Large Bathers that our museum has borrowed from the one in Philadelphia.  I might have gone more often but with the baby there hasn’t been so much time.  It’s a vast painting – eight feet high and nine long.  The wall text says its vault of tree trunks makes a cathedral and this is right, not merely architecturally.  These tree trunks, along with a general impression of blue, and the gathered naked bathers, are the things you’re aware of before you know you’re looking, and the trees [...] read more

The Large Bathers II

Thursday, May 9, 2013

After I had been looking at the Large Bathers for a while, I noticed the swimmer.  Clearly a figure: head, hair, flesh tones, mostly submerged, but swimming through the water.  I saw that the painter had been careful to frame this figure, not only by the water's blue, but in the way that it is seen through the arms of the seated figures of the painting's center.  One detailed hand is angled out right over the swimmer, almost pointing to it.  Why was this degree of emphasis used?  From the swimmer the eye goes back to the man and [...] read more