Ordinary Enchantments


Daniel Siedell praises the painting of Cézanne, arguing that he recovered “the inescapable and indescribable mystery and terrible beauty of nature”:

One of the more important insights of the Reformation was to restore the dignity of the human being as a creature and the world as a gift. If Athanasius claimed that God became man so that man could become god, Luther argued that God became man so that man could once again become a creature, could take delight in his created, contingent, creaturely nature – become a happy human rather than a grumpy god. As Oswald Bayer writes, through Christ “we enter into a new worldliness.”

Perhaps this is Cézanne’s singular achievement. He returned painting to the realm of the creation. These paintings are worldly, creaturely. The critics noticed this. One hostile critic claimed that Cézanne could even paint bad breath. Too often art is regarded as a means to ascend the ladder of divine ascent, to aspire to the heavens and commune with the divine. For Cézanne art is a creaturely practice, one that revels in the givenness of nature.

(Image: Cézanne’s “The Bathers,” via Wikimedia Commons)