Cezanne's Parrot...a tale of perseverance
Art Theme Week 9
Just like most of us, artist Paul Cezanne probably craved encouragement when he tried in vain, to train his pet parrot ‘Bisou’ to say “Cezanne is a great painter”.
Bisou lends humour to this inspiring picture book biography about Paul Cezanne,
the artist who laid the groundwork for modern art and whom Pablo Picasso declared "the father of us all."
The book outlines Cezannes’s efforts to be a great painter like his friends Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Gauguin who offer him advice and guidance, especially after every failed submission to the professors or after an exhibition where his work is dismissed by the critics and collectors. Criticisms like "Too flat!" "Too much paint!" "These are rough and unfinished!" frustrates him, yet while his friends advice, he realises that he is not like them, but rather that he has his own unique style which he wants to hold onto. Cezanne doesn't care about tradition, and he doesn't follow the rules. While he experiments with different techniques, he soon develops a style that no one else has done before, creating something completely new.
Staying true to himself, Cezanne is today known for his ‘still life’ paintings...as he is known to have said, “ I will astonish Paris with an apple”, and he did...today he is known as the Father of Modern Art.
Isn’t it wonderful of how true stories can inspire as much as fiction? As we’ve moved across the Art Theme this term, we have seen this on multiple occasions.
Paul Cezanne’s story is inspiring...a reminder about the power of persistence and never giving up. The storytelling shows us how Cezanne’s struggled between creating art that is not his style and listening to his heart even though others don’t yet recognize the value of his art.
The children could see this and as we’ve gone through so many inspiring reads, were able to point it out without any prompting.
The illustrations draw from Cezanne’s style and include many of his works across the pages.
And yes, he really did have a pet parrot Bisou!
I started the class showing the children a picture of Cezanne's 'Still Life with Apples and Peaches.'
The idea was to elicit the term 'still life' from them, and if they knew what it meant. A few children did guess and explained it to the others.
"A painting or drawing of an arrangement of objects, typically including fruit and flowers and objects contrasting with these in texture, such as bowls and glassware."
As we looked at the cover, the children shared amusing ideas about what they thought about Cezanne. From the cover illustrations some thought that he was a pirate because he had a pirate on his shoulder, another thought he was a juggler, juggling and apple, someone else thought he was a cook, while a few insisted that he was an artist.
One was quite sure that in this book, the parrot must be the painter....why else would they feature a parrot on the cover.
Another retorted that all he is doing is feeding his pet parrot an apple.
Now while these may seem to be innocuous replies to a simple question, "What do you think this book is about?"
Look at the range of responses. These replies are far from silly or childish.
What the children are doing are making predictions. It is not a test, so all answers are welcome.
They are using past knowledge or schema to make connections.
The children enjoyed the story and this book opened out a discussion on perseverance and being true to your self.
As one little boy put it,
Be a unicorn in a field of horses!
Self Awareness: Identity, recognise strengths, self-efficacy
Self Management: Self-Discipline, Goal-setting, Initiative and agency
Social Awareness: Kindness and empathy.