What Copying Meant to Cézanne

NAGAÏ Takanori

Cézanne created numerous copy drawings of works of the past assembled at the Louvre and the Comparative Sculpture Museum in the Trocadéro, thus indicating that he maintained a strong interest in the great artists of the past.
On the other hand, he not only emphasizes in his several letters the importance of studying at the Louvre, but also that of nature; not imitating the manner of one’s predecessors, but rather completely forgetting them as one understands nature anew through one’s own powers and reconstructs it on the picture plane.
Then we might ask, what was the organic connection between copying at the Louvre and “the realization” when confronting nature?
Cézanne’s copies absolutely cannot be understood through the “realism” of the ancient Greeks and onwards, or the neoclassicist theory of copying. As eloquently indicated by the works he chose to copy, Cézanne considered the colorists and Romanticism as his starting point. There was a drastic shift of the meaning of copying from study to creation in Cézanne, who shared the values of originality, individuality, temperment and sensation that had permeated avant-garde artists since the Romanticism that sprang forth from the Enlightenment period. And in this sense also, Cézanne was a great prophet of the arts of the 20th century.

Keywords: copy, realization of the senses, creation of creation, originality, temperament