Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
oil on canvas
1818 x 15 in. (46.1 x 38 cm.)
Painted in 1862-1864
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Edouard Jonas, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 26 November 1951, lot 53.
Charles Auguste Girard, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Emile Roche, Paris (by 1953).
Acquired by the present owner, circa 1995.
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. 1, p. 76, no. 43 (illustrated, vol. 2, p. 17, fig. 43).
P. Machotka, Cézanne: The Eye and the Mind, Marseille, 2008, vol. II, p. 46 (illustrated in color, vol. I, fig. 36).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (, no. FWN13 (illustrated in color).
Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet; Nice; Musée Masséna and Grenoble, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Cézanne: Peintures, aquarelles, dessins, July-October 1953, p. 27, no. 1 (dated circa 1865 and titled Arbres).
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Lot Essay

In September 1861, during his first stay in Paris, Cézanne failed to qualify for a place at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and greatly disillusioned, he returned home to Aix-en-Provence, where he worked for some time in his father's bank. He registered at the local Ecole Gratuite de Dessin, where he had the opportunity to draw from live models. That summer he painted in the countryside around Aix with his friend Numa Coste. In a letter to Cézanne dated 29 September 1862, Emile Zola hoped to boost his friend's spirits by suggesting, “I believe this is a way to escape from the influence of the schools and to develop some originality, if one has any” (J. Rewald, ed., Paul Cézanne Letters, New York, 1976, p. 96). Cézanne returned to Paris in November 1862. He registered at the Académie Suisse, where the painter Joseph-Thomas Chautard corrected his studies.

From Cézanne's first attempts at landscape painting around 1860 his style soon evolved from an inert classicism into the vehemence with which the present work is executed. The influence of Gustave Courbet's earthy realism played a role in the young artist's rejection of traditionally arranged, populated compositions, the forceful application of paint in the present work clearly indebted to Courbet's renderings of the harsh Jura landscape. There was, moreover, a strong sense of the Romantic identification with nature playing a part in his vision. Throughout his life, Cézanne cherished the memories of his early days spent exploring the countryside around Aix with his schoolfriends Zola and Coste, and his landscapes of the mid-1860s, painted when he was spending much of his time in Paris, reflect a nostalgia for this time. In a letter to Coste dated 5 January 1863, Cézanne reminisced about their time together in Aix the previous summer in some brief verses, in which he yearned for “The days when we went to the fields of the [river] Torse To eat a good lunch, and palette in hand Traced on our canvas the landscape around” (ibid., p. 99).

Cezanne’s immersion in his environment is palpable in Paysage through an individual, immediate response to his subject where nature takes on a wild, romantic quality. Here, Cézanne presents a landscape communicated through the movement of his feeling, rather than being objectively described. This is partially achieved in this composition by the use of the palette knife tool, a more sharply-edged instrument than the brush, to apply swathes of paint, mixing color on the surface of the work itself. The short depth of field engendered by Cézanne’s bright overall color also draws attention to the surface lending a direct, spontaneous feeling to his gesture, with a broader, overtly visual representation of his hand. Dominant areas of color block out elements of the composition in a seemingly abstract manner, delineating the fields from the sky, the trees and the ground to articulate differing planes, without the use of traditional perspective devices for its construction.

Such a bold approach in color and construction owes much to Cézanne’s love of Eugène Delacroix, which would in turn influence artists such as Chaïm Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani who would emerge on the scene several decades later. Cézanne’s later work would of course inspire the proto-cubist investigations of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and lead to the discoveries that would define the trajectory of 20th century art. This beautiful and adventurous early work displays fundamental traits of the artist’s bold artistic departures for which he would come to be dubbed “the father of modern art.”

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