Cézanne’s touch in the early oil paintings is marvelously heavy, whether he used the loaded brush or the even more loaded palette knife. That this touch could evolve in the watercolors to be the lightest, the most fleeting and allusive in the history of the medium is only another marvel in the career of Cézanne. The ultimate and unpredictable marvel is a very late group of watercolors, where the paper in its turn is loaded with red and blue washes that are symphonic in their density and resonance. Their special beauty has been a stumbling block for the critic; their often fragmentary nature makes them resistant to scholarship.

Always attractive, the watercolors have in recent years become the focus of new attention. They were the vedettes of the 1977-78 Cézanne exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art; and one hundred seventeen of them were seen in the largest show of them ever,...


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