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In 1993 when we were working on construction a large exhibition and researching African influences on European artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Epstein, and our research assistant Abdul Rashid came upon this reference, buried in the small print footnotes of a large and rare book we had on special loan from National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (NMGM) He brought it to me saying: "This may be important." Of course he knew it was very significant and his understatement was a nice touch before this small, almost buried footnote reference;
“Cezanne, it was the Negro blood of his mother that gave his canvasses most of their qualities.” Written by Robert Coady, Art Editor and New York Gallery Director in Exhibition notes 1917.
We then purchased every book we could find on Paul Cezanne, in all the bookshops in Liverpool. Only one mentioned his mother, Elizabeth Aubert but only a single reference, in passing and no mention of her ethnicity. Readers would assume she was white. Every book wrote about his white father, a French banker, but with no reference to his ethnicity either.
Later on, Professor Protasia Torkington, researching her book ‘The Social Construction of Knowledge: A Case for Black Studies’ found this reference by gallerist Ambroise Vollard, a biographer and friend of Cezanne, and himself black, born in the East African island of Reunion;
“Elizabeth Aubert, Cezanne’s mother, was born at Aix, of a family of remote Creole origin. She was vivacious and romantic, carefree in spirit, but endowed with a disposition at once restless, passionate and quick to take offence. It was from her that Paul got his conception and vision of life.”
Cezanne is acknowlexdged as the innovative, founding father of modern European Art and Picasso honours him but without referring to his ethnicity.
During the Tate Gallery’s blockbuster Cezanne exhibition in 1996, the Tate’s Curator insisted he was white and patronisingly dismissed our evidence after the Guardian had printed a letter from LARCAA. The Guardian allowed us to reply and titled it "Tete a Tate". We were critical of the Tate establishment, it's foundation and links with sugar plantations and slavery, the historical whitewash and denials and the fact that Tate Liverpool omly employed one black person out of more than 70 staff, and he was in 'security'. Tate Liverpool had opened opened at the Albert Dock with millions of £'s grant support from European Funding beacause of extreme poverty in Liverpool (nowhere greater than in Toxteth). Liverpool is known as the 18th Century Capital of the Slave Trade, controlling five sixths of 'The African Trade' (Encyclopaedia Britanica 1947 edition).
I am a witness - Ibrahim Brian Thompson (Artistic Director of Liverpool Anti-Racist Community Arts Association 1987-1997) Ibrahim Thompson
PS. They are at it again. Cezanne Partraits exhibition in London 2017-18 with special catalogue. No mention of his mother! What is their rationale?
TRAINING PROVIDER FOR SCHOOLS, COLLEGES, FE & HE, SOCIAL SERVICES, CHILDREN'S SERVICES, INDEPENDENT AGENCIES. IBRAHIM USES VISUAL ARTS AS A VEHICLE TO OPEN UP A DIALOGUE AND DEVELOP AWARENESS ON ISSUES OF RACIAL, RELIGIOUS & COLOUR PREJUDICE
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