“Cézanne: Finished-Unfinished”

Kunsthaus Zurich

CÉZANNE'S OEUVRE is littered with paintings in various states of incompletion, and what glorious litter it is. By the time of his death in 1906, the most important color on his palette was bare canvas or (in the watercolors) bare paper, an unmark that made the marks around it shiver into life.

With Cézanne “a form exists only by virtue of the neighboring forms,” R.P. Rivière and J.F. Schnerb noted in 1907. Corollary: A blank can be a form. This demonstration of the equal semiotic rights of unworked, unmarked areas made everything possible in modern art, from Pollock's use of bare canvas to Cage's manipulation of silence to perhaps even Duchamp's readymades. Which means that today Cézanne's barest outings look complete—and have often been varnished to prove it. It is difficult to see them as anything other than finished masterworks containing the history of twentieth-century art in

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