Famous Friends

I can think of only one other lifelong friendship between a famous writer and a famous painter comparable to that of Chekhov and Levitan–and it happened roughly during the same era. Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne were friends from childhood. When Zola’s novel L’Oeuvre (The Masterpiece), interpreted as an attack on Impressionists and Impressionism, came out in 1885-1886, Cezanne never spoke to him again, which is reminiscent of what happened after Chekhov published “The Grasshopper” in 1892. Ironically, Zola’s earlier art criticism had been so favorable to the Impressionists that the outraged French press refused to publish it, and Turgenev arranged to get in published in Russia in The Messenger of Europe between 1875 and 1879. Levitan was in art school during those years and we don’t know whether he had read any of Zola’s articles, although some of his teachers were surely interested in what was happening in the Paris art world. See Zola, Cezanne and Manet: A Study of L’Oeuvre by Robert J. Neiss, Ann Arbor, 1968.

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One Response to Famous Friends

  1. Pingback: Paul Cezanne Was a Genius. | The Art of Polemics

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