The relationship between Émile Zola and Paul Cézanne, brings together a great writer and an equally greatpainter, something unique in French cultural history. A shared childhood friendship in Aix-en-Provence that extended over 30 years, it has long been believed that the publication of Zola’s L’Œuvre (trans. as The Masterpiece) in 1886, brought this to a dramatic end on account of Cézanne being wounded by the portrayal of a fictional painter modelled on himself.
This legend has recently been dismissed, but it remains curious that there are only six mentions of Cézanne in Zola’s voluminous art criticism, as compared to over 100 for Manet, and not one analysis of his paintings.
Professor Lethbridge’s illustrated talk will explore some of the personal and aesthetic reasons why the relationship between Zola and Cézanne is more complex than biographers, literary scholars, and art historians would have us believe.
About the Speaker
Robert Lethridge was the 7th Master of Fitzwilliam Colege, Cambridge from 2005 until his retirement in 2013.
Born in the U.S.A. he took his undergraduate degree at the University of Kent, Canterbury. This was followed by a masters at McMaster University, Ontario, and a PhD at St John’s College, Cambridge.
As an academic, Robert is associated mainly with Fitzwilliam College, where, at the end of his career, he became its Master.
His main area of study was 19th Century France, specifically the relationship between literature and the visual arts from that period.
In the context of the Royal Academy Exhibition of 2013, he gave a lecture on Manet and the writers of his time.
A year before retiring he was eleveated to Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, the highest rank of a chivalric order which recognises services to French Culture and Scholarship.