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Les Grandes Baigneuses (Cézanne)


Year: 1977

Size: 33.8 x 38.4 cm

Type: color etching, photogravure, aquatint, drypoint; watercolored

Impulse image

While mentally walking up a staircase with railings on both sides to a kind of gallery, the eye falls directly on a large, colorful painting in gold frame. It is "Les Grandes Baigneuses" (The Great Bathers) in the National Gallery in London, painted at the time by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) between 1894 and 1905 - a theme with which the "father of modernism" grappled for over 30 years. The famous work, measuring 136 x 191 centimeters, with which the artist created a timeless, impulse-giving image, used to hang between other paintings by Cézanne, for example next to "La Vieille au chapelet" (Old Woman with Rosary) from 1895/ 1896, which is barely recognizable on the right side.

The original work

The original work of Cézanne, which Pravoslav Sovak slightly transformed integrated into his graphic:

Paul Cézanne, Les Grandes Baigneuses, 1894-1905, National Gallery London.

Two people

From this staircase perspective, two persons can be observed in Sovak's graphic: A darkly dressed, slender young woman in profile with her arm hanging down, standing at the right edge of the picture of the "Bathers," who seems to be directing her gaze to the left toward a distant work, as well as a gentleman with a bald head and white beard in black clothing dominantly occupying the upper step of the staircase near the left metal balustrade, looking into the vis-à-vis section of the room while his hands clasp a raised knee. Museum visitor and visitor alike, who seem to merge with the floor and stairs and hardly stand out from the predominantly gray surroundings, appear frozen, lost in thought, looking into opposite halves of the room. Are they staffage figures, whose blurred, blurred or blurred-looking rendering draws all attention to the important "Baigneuses"?

Careful staging

The same perspective spreads out before our eyes that Pravoslav Sovak once saw before him when he photographed the situation in the National Gallery. In these so-called "museum sheets," which he begins as a cycle around the mid-1970s, the artist devotes himself to exhibition or display rooms in major museums. Sovak regards these works as "portraits of images" (catalog Mannheim, PS 2016) and combines them with strikingly shadowy, blurred renderings of people who seem to have been photographed by the artist at random.

In reality, they conceal carefully prepared stagings, each arranged with friends and acquaintances after the museum closes. Through their locations, postures, and gestures, Sovak carefully assigns them to the artworks in terms of content and composition. Nothing is left to chance. Neither the various triangular lines, which characterize Cézanne's stepped, tension-laden picture composition and are consciously taken up and continued in Cézanne's style by Sovak in (imaginary) horizontals, verticals and diagonals (between the persons, between railing and picture or woman and railing, etc.). Nor the fine black frame around the entire graphic, which acts like a view through a window between reality and the picture plane. Or the striking physiognomic resemblance of the seated old man to "Master Cézanne," as comparisons with the latter's self-portraits from the 1890s or a 1904 photograph in Cézanne's studio show. Pravoslav Sovak, whose admiration of old masters as well as representatives of Classical Modernism is expressed in numerous "museum sheets", creates wonderful graphics of "cultural spaces of mankind" on the basis of the arranged photographs, which reflect his technical mastery as well as his diverse and rich knowledge of art history - as homage and commentary at the same time united in one work.

Pravoslav Sovak Foundation

c/o lic.iur. Ralph Sigg
Obermattweg 12
CH-6052 Hergiswil, NW

© Pravoslav Sovak Foundation

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