February 29, 2012

I think David Hockney is wrong about this...

“Look at that basket of fruit by Chardin over there on the left [top], and now at the same subject by Cezanne… Chardin’s version, for all its indisputable mastery and beauty, feels far away; it’s a picture of fruit at the far end of an optical remove, receding into the picture, whereas Cezanne’s… feels right up close; those apples feel close at hand, they feel present to hand, they come out to us. That’s what you can achieve when you break from the tyranny of the optical.” [David Hockney, quoted in Weschler, p.184]

I like Hockney a lot. And I certainly don't know what paintings he was referring to when he made the above comment. But given his argument [that Chardin is subject to the "tyranny of the optical"] it shouldn't matter which painting it was. Hockney's saying that Chardin's paintings all work in a way that removes us from the subject, whereas Cezanne sees and therefore paints in away that brings the subject close---makes it present.

I like Hockney's argument, but I can't see it and so I have to say, I think he's wrong. What do you think?


  1. He possibly ment that Chardin's picture shows us an older time ( feels far away ). Cezanne feels close (modern / still time less).

    1. Nothing like waiting two years to reply! Thanks bb blacha, I like what you say and I very much agree with you about that sense of distance. It's just that Hockney is exploring this use of optics or projection of images by painters and I think he's suggesting that using projection brings with it a real, visual, distance from the subject of the painting.