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Chapter 10 sees Asher living for the summer in Provincetown with Jacob Khan. Khan discusses the life of Paul Cezanne, the French post-impressionist painter famed for his portrayals of Mt. St. Victoire, a mountain in the Provence region of southern France that he painted repeatedly. Khan uses Cezanne as an example for Asher in numerous ways, not least as an example of the dedication needed to pursue the artistic vocation. Khan tells Asher of Cezanne's poverty, dedication and how he was derided as an eccentric throughout a career that did not bring him fame in his lifetime. In terms of the theme of light, Khan also uses Cezanne as an example of an artist who, in his paintings of Mt. St. Victoire, does not attempt to paint the 'reality' of the mountain (it is, after all, impossible to represent a three dimensional object properly on the two dimensions of a canvass) but rather, by using different small planes of variegated colours, to capture the artist's 'impression' of the light of the mountain. Khan uses this example for Asher both to inspire Asher to find and doggedly pursue his own artistic vision and, moreover, to show how the light and nature of Provincetown, similar to the famed light of Provence, could be seen as a counterpoint to the darkness and relative isolation that Asher feels in his Hasidic community in Brooklyn.
During this period, Khan also discusses his own life in Paris and how he met the famous Cubist painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso. Picasso took Cezanne's experiments with how to represent a three dimensional object on a two dimensional canvass a stage further in his attempts to depict multiple different views of the same object at the same time. In this sense, light might be interpreted differently as Khan is attempting to show Asher through Picasso's example that the true artist attempts to show work in a new light, i.e. to present a new means of looking at the world. Equally, Picasso is employed by Khan as an example of someone who, like himself, had to leave his comfortable environs in order to make a new discovery about how to see the world.
Chapter 11 sees Asher, now enrolled at the Ladover High School at his parents' request, visit Philadelphia with Khan in order to attend an exhibition of the painting of another post-impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh is similarly used as an example of a man who broke away from the traditional style of painting and from his homeland (in Van Gogh's case, in the Netherlands) in order to pursue his artistic career. Van Gogh was another artist to take the impressionist notion of capturing the 'impression' of light upon objects a stage further than the original 'impressionists' (Monet, Renoir and Degas, for example) with wildly expressionistic brushstrokes. Van Gogh is again used as an example of a man with a wild artistic vocation who was driven to the point of madness by his desire to create a new aesthetic vision. Interestingly, he too lived in the South of France for a short while - in Arles, near to St Jean de Luz where Asher Lev later lives with his family in the sequel to the novel, The Gift of Asher Lev - before his final collapse and death. Van Gogh shared a home with another artist, Paul Gauguin, an artistic partnership than one might draw comparisons with that shared by Asher and Khan, albeit that the latter is a less tempestuous one. Van Gogh's depiction of light in his wild and colourful depictions of the play of light on bright objects such as fields of hay, starry nights and sunflowers can be contrasted to the inner torment and darkness in his pictures (and his developing mental illness) much as a similar tension between his art and life might be seen in Asher's developing work.
Finally, in Chapter 12 we see a further example of Khan completing a part of Asher's aesthetic education through a visit to Chicago in order to see an exhibition of the work of Henri Matisse, another famous French painter. Matisse was first a post-impressionist and then the major proponent of a movement called Fauvism - you can follow the link below for more on Fauvism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Fauves were a group who broke away from any attempt to capture an impression of light on an object and instead produced increasingly light, bright and abstract representations of reality. Khan at one level uses Matisse as a painter who reinvents himself but equally as one who broke free from aesthetic conventions of painting and who worked, like Khan, in multiple different media.
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