LEsprit Divin Sa Nature et Ses Manifestations (Le Pouvoir De La Pensée t. 2) (French Edition)
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Now very frail, he therefore eagerly seized the rare moments of respite to give free rein to his coloristic verve. Note the lionizing rhetoric apparent in both passages, with the emphasis on physical pain and the courage to suffer it. Compin and Maignon have chosen to set up Cross's art as something done in spite of his arthritis, namely the physical restrictions it imposed on his lifestyle, or because of it, as an act of consolation and escape.
No doubt their opinions were influenced by primary sources, namely the memories left by the artist's closest friends and his own letters. His friend and fellow artist, Lucie Cousturier — , for example, described Cross's arthritis as a disability with which he constantly battled.
Not surprisingly, the issue of health dominates his correspondence, which has become the foundation of his biography. My interest in the relationship between Cross's art and arthritis does not follow the lead of other art historians. Is it excessive to place such emphasis on a few inflamed joints? I believe, in fact, that not enough stress has been laid upon Cross's degenerative condition as a significant element of his artistic practice, and I do not mean in this sympathetic, sentimental, and even piteous vein.
All of these were informed choices made by Cross which had significant impact on his life and career, as significant as the aesthetic choices he made as a methodical neo-impressionist painter.
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In his working method we find traces of the artist-invalid experiencing heightened sensations and receptivity to nature, and particularly so in relation to the late work. The Late Work — and the Liberation of Facture In early , Cross took on a new project, hiring models to pose nude en plein air in the wooded brush near his house in Saint-Clair. Situated in dense foliage at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, three female nudes are depicted as though either emerging as natural entities from the landscape or melting into it.
Treating both figures and landscape with the same larger, squared touches typical of his later work, Cross abandoned the distinct contouring so apparent in L'Air du soir c.
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In Nymphes , the seated figure to the right is treated with inconsistent contouring, with virtually nothing to discriminate her reclining thigh from the forest floor. Accented with vertical, multi-colored touches of paint, thigh and ground appear sutured together. Equally, her right arm simply melts away with the cessation of fleshy pink tones.
To the left, the standing nude curves her right arm, her hand resting on a branch. Green touches of paint, used to create shadow, overwhelm her arm and spread over to her collarbone. Lighter units of green contour the curvature of her breasts as well as the spine of her neighbor. Later that year in the autumn, he again employed a model to pose among cork oaks, trees particular to southwest Europe and northwest Africa, resulting in finished paintings like Le Bois —; fig.
In this work, the nudes similarly appear to disintegrate into their southern surroundings, the lower limbs of the two standing nudes and the reclining nude simply cut off and blended into foliage. Like the myth of the Greek goddess Daphne, whose father transformed her into a laurel tree to escape the amorous advances of Apollo, Cross's late nudes appear as though in the process of being totally absorbed into the landscape, but through color and tesserae-like brushwork, a mosaic of color and light without contours.
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The dominant pinks and greens of both Nymphes and Le Bois indicate, too, that the works still adhere to the neo-impressionist principle of color complementaries. Despite Cross's use of relatively large, square markings, he has also continued to use a divisionist application of separate, individual touches of paint in the works. Whether the latter still allows for "optical mixing" for the viewer, as advocated by Ogden Rood and others, is questionable; their uniform size and squared shape resist that effect, and yet overall the paintings still shimmer and vibrate with light.
Exemplary of Cross's late work, Nymphes and Le Bois are perceived by art historians as expressing freedom of touch and freedom of imagination, liberated from the anguish of his physical reality. For example, his style has been explained by Isabelle Compin as changing subtly over the years, from his first works of the early s, towards increasing freedom and imagination by the end of his life.
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In particular, she devotes discussion to two aspects of Cross's stylistic changes over the years: the liberation or enlargement of his touches of paint, namely the dots; and the liberation of color, especially with regard to his representation of sunlight. By , his "late" period, Cross's subject matter would also change, now including mythological scenes, which Compin describes as the liberation of his imagination. In the early s, when Cross first took up the neo-impressionist technique, he strictly adhered to employing small, round dots of relatively equal size and regular spacing.
The Plage de Baigne-Cul of fig. The dots are delicately, methodically, and evenly applied all over the surface of the canvas. But not only is the facture indicative of his early style, its color is characteristic of Cross's initial attempts to capture the sunlight of the region. Compin noted, "The tints Cross arranged in this way are pure but soft, because they are strongly blended by white. The effect is almost blinding. Compin stated that, by , Cross's interests began to change towards a new, more personal aesthetic research: "Fortified by the severe discipline of the neo-impressionist style, Cross searched from now on to surpass it.
With it, as with the literal representation of nature, he would begin to take more liberties and that is how, from until , his evolution towards a more personal art was made. Compin views the change as fundamental to Cross's personal development. The execution of the dot changes as well, and although he continues to employ separate units of paint, they increase in size and allow for "an execution both freer and more rapid.
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The works have signaled to Compin a "will to give free expression to his personal fantasy. Situated next to the photographs featured in Staley's contemporaneous article figs. The union of figure and landscape in the late works is asserted over and over again in Cross's historiography.
In the preface to Cross's first solo exhibition, the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren — described recent work by Cross in which the forms of the figures melt into their surroundings, "where the human being, with her human flesh, seems to exist only as a plant full of fruits. This narrative has implied that, despite two decades of unwavering interest in the coast's landscape and its intense sunlight, Cross progressively loosened or opened up a rigid, neo-impressionist facture towards increasing freedom, while also freeing his imagination to depict a world between fantasy and reality.
But why should this be so? Why describe the stylistic changes throughout this oeuvre as a continuous trajectory towards increasing "freedom," a breaking away from the supposedly oppressive neo-impressionist theories of Seurat? To see these artistic developments as inevitable or natural, that the mature artist's style "naturally" becomes more experimental, looser, and freer, simply conforms to normative narrative strategies of art-historical literature.
In , Baligand juxtaposed the strong, "ardent" body of Signac with the weak, "timid" body of Cross: "While the passionate, ardent and eloquent young Signac divided his life between Saint-Tropez and Paris, Cross, of a timid and reserved nature, weakened by a chronic illness, left the south of France only for short stays in Paris on the occasion of the Salons.
If we accept that a biography is a selective staging of a life, or the narration of progressive milestones, accomplishments, trials and tribulations, then it becomes less an approach to analyzing visual or literary representations than a representation in itself. It is a compilation or assemblage by various contributors of facts, opinions, assumptions, exaggerations, mistakes, and even falsities.
One's life and one's biography are therefore two quite different things. I accept that Cross's "true" life is not recoverable.
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Cross's biographers have repeatedly emphasized his northern French origins, as a man of Douai whose passion for art and true self could not find release until he descended south. Maurice Denis articulated this about Cross as early as He was a man of the North who, under a cool appearance, hid with a kind of modesty an ardent heart.
He was born in the fog of Flanders, in Douai, where he began to paint; he studied in the cave of Bonvin and grew tired quickly there of All his artistic life took place between this departure from the dark and this arrival to the sun. Such views of southern climates, particularly those bordering the Mediterranean Sea, as "liberating" occur frequently in contemporaneous literature by writers who were also invalids, though they are part of a much longer tradition of travellers' encounters with the "South. In he began writing Les Nourritures terrestres , which was published in following his two-year stay convalescing from pulmonary tuberculosis in Biskra, Algeria.
Gide and his biographers would describe his recovery as a rebirth akin to a miracle. That novel also takes place in Algeria as well as on the Italian Riviera, in the towns of Sorrento and Ravello. Gide described the descent south in that novel with his protagonist, Michel's voice, writing, "That descent into Italy gave me all the dizzy sensations of a fall I felt I was leaving abstraction for life, and though it was winter, I imagined perfumes in every breath…on the threshold of this land of tolerance and promise, all my appetites broke out with sudden vehemence.
Robert Louis Stevenson —94 was even more explicit, writing in an essay entitled, "Ordered South," of Moreover, there is still before the invalid the shock of wonder and delight with which he will learn that he has passed the indefinable line that separates South from North. And this is an uncertain moment; for sometimes the consciousness is forced upon him early, on the occasion of some slight association, a colour, a flower, or a scent; and sometimes not until, one fine morning, he wakes up with the southern sunshine peeping through the persiennes, and the southern patois confusedly audible below the windows.
Like Gide, Stevenson was tubercular, and spent the winter of in Menton. For these writers, the journey south was marked by new sights, feelings, smells of exotic flora, a "softer" air, and increasing luminosity. As invalids, such experiences were felt and perceived to be particularly acute. An invalid diary from the s, written by an anonymous young, tubercular woman sent to Cannes by her physician, posited the healing powers of climate on her ill body as a revitalizing, penetrating, and regenerative transformation.
She wrote to her friend, in a poetic entry of December 7, Reassure yourself.
Perhaps I will not die Life, which overflows with this rich and luxuriant nature, is infectious, and through all the pores it penetrates into you. This air which one breathes, and in that one swims with delight, enters smoothly and softly into the chest; like a miraculous balsam, it tranquilizes the sharpest pains, and causes a delightful freshness to course through the veins.
Similarly in his writings Gide asserted that illness rendered the body more porous to sensations.
In Les Nourritures terrestres , Gide's protagonist stated, for instance, that,. At Rome…I went to walk in the gardens every day. I was ill and incapable of thinking; nature just sank into me; thanks to some nervous disorder, my body seemed at times to have no limits; it was prolonged outside myself—or sometimes became porous; I felt myself deliciously melting away, like sugar. And in another work, he depicted illness as initiating a major life change on his body while in Algeria:.
I was lucky to be taken ill over there—very seriously ill, it's true—but my illness did not kill me—on the contrary—it only weakened me for a while, and had the distinct effect of giving me a taste for the rarity of life. It would seem that a weakened organism is more porous, more transparent, tenderer, more perfectly receptive to sensations. In spite of my illness, if not because of it, I was all receptivity and joy. These statements are crucial for understanding how the invalid was perceived to embody and therapeutically utilize the beneficial climate.
In Gide's case, his increased "coenaesthetic preoccupations" to use Corbin's term were attributed solely to his illness, through which he perceived tuberculosis as enabling his heightened sensations of his environs.