On giving paintings time to work their miracle

Paul Cezanne. Self-portrait with palette. c. 1890
Paul Cezanne. Self-portrait with palette. c. 1890

For several weeks in autumn 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke was visiting Cézanne’s memorial retrospective in Paris nearly every day, and spent hours in front of his paintings. This encounter has transformed him, as a man and as a poet, “[b]ut, — he wrote to his wife —

“it takes a long, long time. When I remember the puzzlement and insecurity of one’s first confrontation with his work, along with his name, which was just as new. And then for a long time nothing, and suddenly one has the right eyes …” (from Rainer Maria Rilke. “Letters on Cézanne.”).

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