Tessa, About Hortense’s Portrait


Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress, 1888 – 1890

Spectral presences lived in the room.
He pondered his wife in the abstract.
Observing surfaces, light that produced
tones, depth, richness.
All was geometry.
In the courtyard, the windows by
cascading moonlight. We leaned close.
The cobbled stones slicked by rain,
foliage orbed by lights.
In one of them she sat.

The shawl-collared red dress against
floral drapery. Hortense’s peculiar,
asymmetric, egg-shaped face. Plain
pulled back hair, center parted.
Yellow damask back of chair, oddly
angled with wainscot band, a mirror’s
sharp corner, part of a mantelpiece
with long tongs. What might we gather?
Abstraction being a condition, a paradox
describing human complexity.


Prompt: The world is full of colors. Paul Cézanne said that everything in nature is colored. And that “shadow is a colour as light is, but less brilliant; light and shadow are only the relation of two tones.” Interestingly, he painted an abstract portrait of his wife above based on a fragmented visual world. He has been called the father of modern art. Picasso made his first cubist paintings based on Cézanne’s idea that all depiction of nature can be reduced to three solids: cube, sphere and cone. Your prompt is to write about an abstract painting. Alternatively you could write an abstract poem.


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