Cézanne’s Subjectivity

I am currently reading the book Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer.  The book is about great artists of all forms and how their art was ahead of our understanding neuroscience.  For example, Lehrer describes how Walt Whitman’s writing connects “soul” to the physical body.  Lehrer describes the culinary art of Auguste Escoffier and the discovery of umami (the 5th taste after bitter, salty, sweet, and sour).   Also covered in this book is Paul Cézanne.  I just had to write about this chapter.  As Lehrer writes, “Cézanne’s art exposes the process of seeing”  (98).  Cézanne, as a post impressionist, took us away from the idea that seeing was all about light.  Rather, Cézanne showed us that seeing was about imagination,  Everything we see with our eyes is processed by our brains.  As our brains are skilled at drawing connections and making inferences, this process greatly affects what we think we see.  Seeing is creating.  Cézanne’s paintings attempted to expose this higher reality.  “Cézanne abstracted on nature because he realized that everything we see is an abstraction” (109).

Lehrers’ book is an interesting read and I recommend it for those interested in how art and science work together in understanding the world.


Image: Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1882-1885