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March Art Appreciation Lesson

Geometry in Art
Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne (say ZAN) was born in France in 1839. His father was a wealthy
banker and he wanted his son to do the same but he eventually supported his sons
dream to be an artist and sent him to Paris to learn to paint.
When he got to Paris, his paintings were so rough that none of the official art schools
would admit him as a student. At first his paintings were done in dark colors, but

Camille Pissarro, the same painter that inspired Claude Monet, encouraged him to
paint out in the sunlight, and his paintings came alive with bright colors.
After spending time in Paris, he returned to the countryside of Provence, France and
spent much time traveling by donkey to Mont St. Victoire, in the nearby mountains
to sleep under the stars and to paint.
Cezanne was a huge, shy man with a strange phobia (severe fear) of being touched
by other people so he spent much time far away from others. Even with this, he
remained completely devoted to his one son, Paul, who traveled from his home, with
his mother in Paris, to visit with him often. Cezanne painted several images of his
son over the years. His son respected his fathers work so much that later in his life
he served as his unofficial art agent and helped him mass a serious fortune.
Cezanne started off as an Impressionist, but his paintings did not have the light airy
look of many Impressionists like Monet, Renoir or Degas. Instead of putting flecks of
paint on the canvas he put slabs of color. His pictures appeared heavier and more
solid in appearance due to the heavy strokes of color on the canvas. Cezanne was a
versatile artist. He painted many different subjects in multiple styles. He painted still
lifes, portraits and landscapes. Sometimes he painted the same subject over and
over again, as seen with the two portraits of his son.
To him, shapes were considered to be the basic forms of art composition. Czanne
was interested in seeing the world as a grouping of shapes and reducing images to a
series of geometric forms. For example, he saw a tree as a cylinder and a sphere or
an apple or orange as a sphere. He also painted his colors in patches. Notice the
squares and triangles of color found in his paintings.
Cezannes painting at the turn of the century was new and different and his focus on
geometric simplification (breaking down an image into basic shapes) and painting
in patches, or cubes, may have been one of the most important factors in inspiring

the movement to Modern 20 th Century Art and Cubism . Pablo Picasso and other
Cubists would continue to take inspiration from Cezannes amazing study of color,
shape and perspective

The Card Players

(c. 1892) The Louvre, Paris, France
At first look, this painting is of two men playing a game of cards, but what is more
interesting is that Cezanne was just as interested in painting shapes as he was in
painting the game itself. This painting is full of geometric shapes; triangles, squares
and circles.
In this painting there is a line of symmetry (imaginary line where you could fold the
image and have both halves match exactly). The bottle between the two players
marks this line. This line of symmetry may be harder to find since there is no mirror
image, but if you look closely at the colors and weight of the painting, you will see it
more clearly. Balance found on each side of a painting which is created with color
and images is an abstract way of looking at symmetry.

1. How are the sizes of the men different? Are their positions different? Why does
this matter? (The left figure is more completely in the picture; his partner, bulkier,
more muscular, is slightly nearer to us and takes up more of the table.)
2. What sorts of expressions do they have? How do they feel? Can you tell whos
winning? (The first man (the one with the white pipe) is the more habitual player,
relaxed and cool, and his long thin form is contrasted with the horizontal line (notice
the red wall/line going from west to east) behind him. The other player is bent
forward and looks more concerned.)

3. Notice the two hats. What makes them different? What do the hats tell you about
the men?
4. How do the cards differ? Are the men holding them differently? Can you tell who
is winning by the way they are holding their cards?
5. Notice how the tablecloth falls on each side of the table. Can you see angles? Can
you see soft edges? How do angles and soft surfaces differ? Does that tell you
anything about the emotion of the men in the painting?
6. There are many shapes found in this piece of art. Trace the shapes with your
finger. What shapes to you see?
7. This painting appears to be painted in mostly reds and browns. Look closely, do
you see other colors?

Reinforcing Activities:
1.See attachments on the website. I have included a word search, word
scramble, alpha order exercise and a coloring sheet for quick and easy
exercises. I will include them each month just as something easy or a
reinforcing handout.
2. This is a great way to study shapes in art. The children can draw their
surroundings (inside or outside) by using geometric shapes to reinforce how
Cezanne saw his world.

3. Paul, Cezannes son was very ptoud of his fther and eventually served as his
agent. Write a letter to your parents, teacher, someone you respect to tell
them about something that inspires you.
4. Write about a game you won or lost and how you felt.
5. I have printed 6 copies of the Card Players and laminated them. Pass them
around to the tables to have the children trace the shapes with their fingers
and make a tally of how many circles, triangles, etc they see in the piece of art.
They can do this as a table exercise. You can also print these on your own and
have the children circle the shapes.
6. Cezanne and the Apple Boy by Laurence Anholt is a GREAT read out loud!
The children may have questions about why Cezanne didnt like to be touched
(his phobia) we can just let them know that even when we feel things or are a
certain way, it does not take away from our ability to succeed and follow our
dreams whew.. thats a weird one but it may need to be explained if you read
the book. Perhaps if Cezanne had had access to Purell he would have
overcome this fear
7. I have included two paintings of Cezannes son, Paul on the Powerpoint
slides. Both are done in different years. If you read the book, you can use
these two paintings to compare and contrast.


Cezanne and the Apple Boy, Anholt, Lawrence; 2009 Barrons Educational
Series, Inc.
How Artist See People, Carroll, Colleen; 1996 Abbeville Publishing Company