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Letters On Cézanne
Rainer Maria Rilke
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Letters On Cézanne

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  297 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Rilke's prayerful responses to the french master's beseeching art

For a long time nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.

Virtually every day in the fall of 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke returned to a Paris gallery to view a Cezanne exhibition. Nearly as frequently, he wrote dense and joyful letters to his wife, Clara Westhoff, expressing his dismay before the painting
Published (first published 1952)
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Rilke wrote these letters to his wife the sculptor Clara Westhoff during the period when he lived in Paris (1902 to 1910). He had been commissioned to write a monograph on Rodin and also worked for him as a secretary for a few months. During this period he also wrote his novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

The collection has about thirty letters written from June until November 1907 but the content of Clara’s letters is only hinted in this one sided conversation.

Clara Westhoff by Paula Mo
In the Summer and Fall of 1907, Rilke traveled to Paris. He spent many days rapt before the paintings of Cézanne in the Salon d'Autome, which was holding a memorial exhibition of the painter's work. Rilke captured his reactions and developing thoughts about art and artists in a series of letters to his wife, Clara. This volume contains translated excerpts from the letters, which transport the reader to Rilke's side.

Although the letters are excerpted (one reason why I dropped the rating down one
...which so incorruptibly reduced a reality to its color content that it resumed a new existence in a beyond of color, without any previous memories.

I love reading poets on painters because the need to establish a correspondance des arts between word and color always calls forth a poet's deepest powers of expression and precision (and an aesthetic mysticism clings to considerations of the painterly confronation with creation, with the spirituality of seeing, as in the aforequoted credo). Even in
A beautiful little book which, despite its epistolary nature, reads like a manifesto on post Impressionism. Every page contains a poetic gem. A must read for artists, writers, and those who take pleasure in act of seeing.
Susan Vreeland
Not an art history of Cezanne by a poet, this is rather an intimate account of Rilke's encounter with Cezanne through the paintings in an exhibition the year after the painter died. It's private, (the letters are to his wife), sometimes rhapsodic, sometimes stumbling, always earnest. I respect Rilke and Cezanne more after reading this attempt to grasp the painter's vast and deep aspirations. This helped me tremendously in writing scenes in LISETTE'S LIST (my work-in-progress) in which an ordinar ...more
Leisha Wharfield
When I read Rilke's letter about Cezanne emptying himself out, emptying everything apple into his apple so the representation of the apple is the thing itself, and Cezanne's love of the apple and, by extension (although this isn't expressed explicitly by Rilke), his love for this beautiful life, an expression tainted by his artistic melancholy, I was reminded of Gertrude Stein writing the very same about Picasso, about how he emptied himself out, emptied himself out artistically, and how emptyin ...more
A.B. McFarland
Paul Cézanne was the first painter I liked as a child. I adored how he used color and texture to build up an object, making it so solid, so real. Rainer Maria Rilke is a writer with whom I have no experience, though reading this work has made me want to investigate his poetry.

Rilke sees Cézanne as a direct, honest painter who paints what he sees without judgment. Rilke admires the way he sees color in everything; even Cézanne's grays are full of color. As a painter I can appreciate this, since I
Anna Vincent
I read excerpts of this eight years ago; I read the whole book four years ago, and I since revisit it whenever I can. It’s Rilke’s writings to his wife, Clara Rilke.

He has a meticulously observant and poetic style, a romance, that’s unparalleled.

Below I analyze two of my favorite letters, with a focus on style.
(view spoiler)
There's poetry to Rilke's thoughts on Cezanne - incredible phrasing and imagery. The thinking doesn't go any deeper but it gets finer and detailed. Written in the rapt aesthetic servitude of modernism, this can sometimes feel a bit over-ripe. But the format ofthis book, which was compiled from Rilke's letters to his wife after seeing a show of Cezannes, emphasizes very earthy values of looking hard and sharing sweetly.
Paris VI(e), 29, Rue Cassette, October 8, 1907: (on a portrait with a capuchin in the Louvre by Rosalba Carriera)
"This is so full of one period that it is valid for all times. And it is lovely and lightly painted, but really painted. . . . And I noticed that this blue is that special eighteenth-century blue that you can find everywhere, in La Tour, in Peronnet, and which even in Chardin does not cease to be elegant, even though here, as the ribbon of his particular hood (in the self-portrait wit
These letters-- home from Paris, written to Rilke's smart-as-hell-seeming wife Clara-- are occasional. The excerpts appearing here are reveries on Cezanne's (as well as Van Gogh's and Pisarro's and others') life, plunges into the paintings, and descriptions of Paris winter. R's language has a casual beauty-- how the moon covers a wall like a sheet of aluminum-- and he says some unforgettable things-- how every part of one of Cezanne's painting seems to see every other part, how the reality of im ...more
A good idea: to return (nearly) daily to study the same works of art, closer and closer. These letters read as a more scattered collection, rather than a unified whole. Moments of beauty and glimpses into Rilke's reflections on his own work and what might influence his future writing link the letters (loosely) thematically.

Rilke's meditations on art are often applicable to writing. And Rilke is a master at writing about the seasons.

autumn: "At no other time, it seems to me, does the earth let it
Sep 02, 2009 Aneesa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sivan
You can see how Cézanne changed Rilke's thinking. The best part of what I got out of it is summed up in the last paragraph of the forward: "These reflections would be incomplete if they did not make mention of Rilke's wife, whose presence and silent participation are sensible in every part of the Letters. Indeed, the letters attest, more beautifully than any love letters could, that their recipient possessed a quality which the poet only very rarely encountered in his lifelong search for human c ...more
This is a short but phenomenal read.
Brian Coupland
Firstly, this song got stuck in my head as I was reading this on account of his fondness for Cezanne's blues. His descriptions of color in general are particularly engaging at times. Sometimes his descriptions approach 'common' but that's what I'd expect from a letter anyway. Which brings me to the point that it was interesting to see that he actually communicated with other people in language similar to his other writings. It was a light read, worth the time.
Las cartas escritas por Rainer Maria Rilke excelentes, la edición de Paidós lamentable.
Mark Bennett
A window into Rilke's art and artistry, via letters on the impact of Cezanne. Books for me are about authors like Rilke, there's always a gem or two or three that makes the journey worthwhile. Here's a gem-thought near the end:

"... how very much of one piece is everything we encounter, how related one thing is to the next, how it gave birth to itself and grows up and is educated in its own nature, and all we basically have to do is BE THERE, but simply, ardently, the way the earth simply is..."
Stephen Lindow
Some insightful descriptions, but I found his 'Letters to a Young Poet' more affecting.
ككلب يرى وجهه في المرآة ويفكر: هناك كلب آخر
Feb 06, 2008 Alisha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rilke fans, painters
Shelves: poetry
This book is a collection of letters that Rilke wrote to his wife while he was away. He spent hours standing in an art gallery, looking at pictures painted by Cezanne. He then would write long, elaborate letters to his wife about the paintings and what they meant for art, and writing, and his personal quest to produce the art he knew he was capable of. They are powerful and beautiful; a necessary read for any one who makes or appreciates art.
Enjoyed this. Full of beautiful descriptions of artistic practice you couldn't really get away with today - Rilke says that the work of art is, to the artist, 'the knot in the rosary at which his life recites a prayer.' I read this for insights into Rilke rather than Cezanne, but suspect it'll alter my view of both.
waking beasts
This short read was a little jewel...I thought of it when I was in Austria walking through a Cezanne if i were in Rilke's shoes as that moment. It certainly is something which pleases the eye. Great read for art historiains, art students, poets.
The best text I have ever read from a non-visual artist about a painter.

Though he wrote the line in a poem dedicated to Rodin, it was Cezanne who inspired Rilke to the mandate emanating from the greatest art:
"You must change your life."
beautiful and intriguing. not a good "time of life" fit for me right now though, so I will need to read it again...maybe after i finish writing applications for more school...
"Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further."
David Schilling
Amazing read. Descriptions of Cezanne's paintings and how they affected Rilke. I've read this about 10 times and it never gets old.
Colin Moon
Remarkable correspondence between Rilke and his wife concerning the painter Cezanne and the nature of art.
Tracie Morell
Incredible insight on an amazing artist by a mind blowing poet.
Carrie Lorig
approx: i felt it two pomegranates simultaneously.
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Rainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets.

His haunting images tend to focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two mos
More about Rainer Maria Rilke...
Letters to a Young Poet The Selected Poetry Duino Elegies The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

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“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.” 199 likes
“Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.” 9 likes
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