DIEGO RIVERA -- MY ART, MY LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (WITH GLADYS MARCH)
NO MORE CEZANNES
As I have previously said, I came to Europe as a disciple of Cezanne, whom I had long considered the greatest of the modern masters. I had hoped to study under him, but Cezanne having died before I reached France, the best I could do was look for his paintings. I was still too shy to go where they were mostly to be found, in the homes of private collectors. I, therefore, did my hunting on the Rue Lafitte where the more celebrated dealers in modern paintings had their shops. When I carne upon a Cezanne, I would stand rooted before it, studying and enjoying it
One day I saw a beautiful Cezanne in the window of Ambroise Vollard, the dealer who, I learned later, had been the first to take an interest in Cezanne. I began looking at the canvas at about eleven o'clock in the morning. At noon Vollard went out to lunch, locking the door of his gallery. Returning about an hour later and finding me still absorbed by the painting in his window, Vollard threw me a fierce glance. From his desk in the shop he looked up, from time to time, and glared at me. I was so shabbily dressed he must have taken me for a burglar.
Suddenly Vollard got up, took another Cezanne from the middle of the shop and put it in the window in place of the first. After a while, he replaced the second canvas with a third. Then he brought out three more Cezannes in succession. It had now become dark. Vollard turned on the lights in the window and inserted still another Cezanne.
Though his expression remained glowering, he finally turned on all the lights in the gallery, and with hungry, affectionate gestures, began to remove paintings from the walls and arranged them on the floor where I could see them from the doorway. Among these was the wonderful "Card Players." I stared enraptured, oblivious of a hard rain which had begun to fall and was now drenching me to the skin.
Finally, coming to the doorway, Vollard shouted, "Vous comprenez, je n'en ai plus." ("You understand, I have no more.")"
When at last I started to leave, Vollard walked to the door, obviously intending to tell me something. But afraid that he was angry, I hurried away.
It was late at night when I arrived at my studio, and I was burning with fever. My thermometer read 104°F. The fever continued for the next three days. But it was a marvelous delirium; all the Cezannes kept passing before my eyes in a continuous stream, each one blending with the next. At times I saw exquisite Cezannes which Cezanne had never painted.
To this day, I feel grateful to Vollard for the gruff benevolence he extended to me that day outside his shop. On my way home I had noticed the time on an illuminated public clock -- half past two. Probably no man has ever stood so long as I, admiring masterpieces in the street under a furious rain. But what art dealer has ever kept his shop open so late just to please one poor, fascinated student?
When Picasso brought Vollard to my studio in Paris in 1915, I told him that I would always be thankful to him and the reason why. Vollard threw up his hands again as he had done then and exclaimed, laughing, "I still have no more!"