How do Mondrian and Cezanne use color in their paintings?

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appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The use of color by modern painters is often concerned with two general aspects: the palette used by the artist, and the way that colors are mixed and applied on canvas or other painting surfaces to show form. The "palette" refers the range of colors normally used by an artist in a way that creates the particular look of that artist's work. Both Cezanne and Mondrian are known for bright colors; but Cezanne's color palette is one that is mixed in a very subtle way, with colors that look nearly as bright as pigments from the tube, but that are lightened or dulled slightly by the addition of grey or other pigments. Some art instructors will use Cezanne as an example to help student painters learn about mixing colors, because the colors are more complex than they look at first glance. Cezanne's colors are known to be vibrant and rich, and indeed the uniquely powerful use of color is considered a central aspect of Cezanne's style. Cezanne's opinion of the importance of color offers insight into his methods:

"Drawing and color are not separate at all; in so far as you paint, you draw. The more the color harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes. When the color achieves richness, the form attains its fullness also. The contrasts and relations of tones - there you have the secret of drawing and modeling".

In this quote we see that Cezanne's methods of painting and his creation of form are both intimately connected to his use of color. Since Cezanne's work is mostly figurative subjects or landscapes, his use of color needs to be fairly naturalistic (although his paintings are not particularly realistic, they are also not abstract or surreal).

In the case of Piet Mondrian, who is famous for his abstract works, the use of bright or pastel colors need not be naturalistic, and in fact the dramatic contrasting colors of his images are his calling card as a painter. Mondrian's most famous works use many primary shades of red, blue and yellow, but he also works in pastels and more subtle color combinations. 

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