Saturday, 18 October 2008

Cezanne's Bords de la Marne, recently revealed in the old section of NSW's art gallery, is apparently not yet paid for.

An email to subscribers of the gallery's mail list tells us there will be a fundraising auction.

The $16 million painting is not large, nor is the price. Really it's not when you think about it. Consider the value of real estate in Sydney alone for a moment. It can seem a bargain in this light.

Eighty per cent of the cost was from private sponsors, articles last month read. And it had already been moved to Sydney.

It's a small and well constructed picture of a river frontage. The thumbnail above shows a sample. In the full image, a punt enters the frame at bottom right. This dynamic is buttressed by a sweeping movement in foliage of the tree Cezanne has placed in the dead centre of the frame.

The tree's downward movement sweeps around clockwise, and returns the viewer's attention to a stack of houses receding elegantly at left of frame. The two movements complement each other. The punt moves left and the sweep of tree and clouds moves in concert.

The image offers a scene and structure characterised by tranquillity and stability. In the left half, stacked houses and trees stand in quiet repose compared to the fluidity of the right half.

The pleasant contrast is not inventive. Compared to better-known views of a Swiss mountain and the painter's signature still lifes with oranges, Bords de la Marne is sedate.

Nevertheless, careful reconstruction of the material world in terms of what is seen - rather than in terms of what should exist - is Cezannesque.

Anyone can go to see the painting if they are in Sydney now. Veer right after entering the gallery. The access portal is last on your right.

No postcards have been printed. This is not surprising as it's early. But as Edmund Capon said during televised broadcasts at the time of purchase, it rewards repeat visits.

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