in 2014 both Tori Amos and I turned 50. She wrote a song called '16 shades of blue' inspired by that milestone and Cezanne's painting 'the black clock'--because turning 50 makes you think about time. And that idea lead her to Rilke's 'Letters on Cezanne' and his poetic descriptions of the color blue. The following from my blog post in May 2014:
From Tori Amos
For the first time, she found herself influenced by visual art, most notably Cezanne, who inspired 16 Shades of Blue after she had seen his painting The Black Clock. “Rhythms and music started happening in my head,” she nods. “Then I began reading that Rilke would say that he [Cezanne] would paint in at least 16 shades of blue at times. All of sudden, it just came together: a story about age, and what it means to turn different ages at different times. I was hearing from women about their different struggles with age, and quite frankly I wasn’t prepared for it. So as I was staring 50 straight in the eye, that then became the song.” Read more.
16 SHADES OF BLUE BY TORI AMOS, lyrics are you telling me it’s over disintegrating lost and there’s nothing I can do before you drop another verbal bomb, can I arm myself with Cezanne’s 16 shades of blue as my heart is slowly ripping into pieces disconnecting from the circuits of my mind “you’ll get over it” you say “in time” in time? if the clocks are black absorbing everything but a remembering how we made it that clocks are black you say “get over it if 50 is the new black, hooray this could be your lucky day” but my cables they are surging almost over loading as you disengage could your heart be slowly ripping into pieces disconnecting from the circuits of your mind “we’ll get over it” you say “in time” in time? if the clocks are black absorbing everything but a remembering how we made it that clocks are black “that’s it you’re done. You’ve screwed up your life” before you’ve begun there are those who say I am now too old to play see over there at 33 she fears she’ll lose her job because they hear the ticking of her clock at only 15 I said 15, they say her future’s bleak she should have started this at 3 as her heart is slowly ripping into pieces disconnecting from the circuits of her mind “she’ll get over it” you say “in time” in time? stop Father Time if the clocks are black absorbing everything but a remembering how we made it that how our clocks are black before you drop another verbal bomb can I arm myself with Cezanne’s 16 shades of blue RILKE'S LETTERS ON CEZANNE
In 2014 I had been reading and painting Rilke for 4-5 years, but I had never read 'Letters on Cezanne'. And I was looking for a way to explore color in a more poetic fashion. There are 16 shades of blue explored in this book, but they don't all pertain to Cezanne.
Here are a couple of articles that speak to this writing and blue.
Perhaps this is best seen in a number of letters in which he produces a series or variations on the color blue. In these descriptions, Rilke moves beyond technical terms such as indigo or Prussian blue. In fact, the words are coming from an entirely new realm of language and description, one that appears to initially personify or reveal Rilke’s bias. There is a “good conscience blue” (50), a “completely supportless blue” (44). There is a “thunderstorm blue”(88) and a ‘listening blue”(87) in Cezanne’s work. To some, in the last image the overt personification of blue has gone too far, and yet there seems to be no better word for that type of blue which is in quiet accordance with other colors, which absorbs the noise of another color as a sound is absorbed by an attentive ear. Source
There are also these descriptions of blue: The color blue, for example, he describes in various “active” ways, attributing qualities to the color that aren’t normally associated with colors, let alone such nuances of the color blue: juicy blue, full of revolt blue, blissful barely blue, Egyptian shadow blue, etc. Much more is written about Rilke’s views on Cezanne and the color blue here.
MY HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS READING
Rilke on Cezanne. "Rilke's discovery is an understanding of the decisive role balance plays in this art; that balance between the reality of nature and the reality of the image which was Cezanne's entire striving...which so incorruptibly reduced a reality to its color content that the reality resumed a new existence in a beyond of color, without any previous memories.
The 16 shades of blue delineated: An October morning in Paris presents him with a "completely supportless blue"; two days later, in front of the pictures in the Salon, he speaks of "the good conscience of these reds, these blues"; Thereupon while crossing the Place de la Concorde, the poet becomes aware of "an ocean of cold...barely blue"; while the houses in the backgroud loom in a "blue dove-grey". The obelisk, around whose granite there is always "a glimmering of blond old warmth holds an ancient Egyptian shadow-blue" in its heiroglyphic hollows...Intensity of perception increases, and with it the wealth of nuances in the experiencing of blue: a "self-contained blue" (in van Gogh) is joined by a "listening blue" and a "thunderstorm blue" in Cezanne, with "sky-blue" and "sea blue" as the only conventional mentions of the color. Until, in the end, in the second letter from Prague, a "bourgeois cotton blue" and a "light cloudy blueishness" evoke the whole scale of a color as it was painted by the artist and named by the poet: from a "densely quilted blue" through "waxy blue," "wet dark blue," "juicy blue" to that slope of curved hills in a van Gogh: "full of revolt, Blue, Blue, Blue."
pgxxii. instead of parroting big words that no longer belong to anyone, Cezanne had to begin again from the bottom, subjecting himself to the daily effort of "being in front of the landscape and drawing religion from it" -- a religion for which this churchgoing heathen ddi not have a name. But according to statements he himself made, he regarded the colors as numinous essences, beyond which he knew nothing.
Paula Modersohn-Becker had experienced the master's work "like a great thunderstorm," years before Rilke--and it was thanks to her that at a decisive moment his eyes were opened to its message. **My mind has been so much occupied these days by the thought of Cézanne, of how he has been one of the three or four powerful artists who have affected me like a thunderstorm, like some great event. Do you still remember what we saw at Vollard [art-seller in Paris who showed Cézanne's works frequently in his gallery] in 1900? And then, during the final days of my last stay in Paris, those truly astonishing early paintings of his at the Galerie Pellerin. Tell your husband he should see the things there.. .If it were not absolutely necessary [Paula was pregnant] for me to be here right now [Germany], nothing could keep me away from Paris.
In a letter from Worpswede, 21 October, 1907, to her friend Clara Rilke-Westhoff; as quoted in Voicing our visions, - Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 208