We are moving through the five senses and connecting them to spiritual life. From Diane Ackerman's marvellous book, A Natural History of the Senses, these words about the 'painter's eye,'
In his later years, Cezanne suffered a famous paroxysm of doubt about his genius. Could his art have been only an eccentricity of his vision, not imagination and talent guarded by a vigilant esthetic? In his excellent essay on Cezanne in Sense and Nonsense, Maurice Merleau-Ponty says: "As he grew old, he wondered whether the novelty of his painting might not come from trouble with his eyes, whether his whole life had not been based upon an accident of the body." Cezanne anxiously considered each brush stroke, striving for the fullest sense of the world, as Merleau-Ponty describes so well:
We see the depth, the smoothness, the softness, the hardness of objects; Cezanne even claimed that we see their odor. If the painter is to express the world, the arrangement of his colors must carry with it this invisible whole, or else his picture will only hint at things and will not give them in the imperious unity, the presence, the insurpassable plenitude which is for us the definition of the real. That is why each brush stroke must satisfy an infinite number of conditions. Cezanne sometimes pondered for hours at a time before putting down a certain stroke, for, as Bernard said, each stroke must "contain the air, the light, the object, the composition, the character, the outline, and the style." Expressing what exists is an endless task.
Opening up wide to the fullness of life, Cezanne felt himself to be the conduit where nature and humanity met -- "The landscape thinks itself in me ... I am its consciousness" -- and would work on all the different sections of a painting at the same time, as if in that way he could capture the many angles, half-truths, and reflections a scene held, and fuse them into one conglomerate version. "He considered himself powerless," Merleau-Ponty writes, "because he was not omnipotent, because he was not God and wanted nevertheless to portray the world, to change it completely into a spectacle, to make visible, how the world touches us." When one thinks of the masses of color and shape in his paintings, perhaps it won't come as a surprise to learn that Cezanne was myopic, although he refused glasses, reputedly crying "Take those vulgar things away!" He also suffered from diabetes, which may have resulted in some retinal damage, and in time he developed cataracts (a clouding of the clear lens). Huysmans once captiously described him as '"An artist with a diseased retina, who, exasperated by a defective vision, discovered the basis of a new art." Born into a different universe than most people, Cezanne painted the world his slightly askew eyes saw, but the random chance of that possibility gnawed at him.