Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Julie Manet (later Mme Ernest Rouart), Paris
Albert André, France
Wally Findlay Galleries, Palm Beach
Bruce Norris, Miami
Sale: Christie's, New York, May 14, 1980, lot 7
Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
Thence by descent
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Cézanne, 1936, no. 189
Aix-en-Provance, Galerie Lucien Blanc, Exposition d'aquarelles de Paul Cézanne, 1953, no. 2
New York, Wally Findlay Galleries, 50 Masters from Renoir to Vlaminck, 1969, no. 14
Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art, Cézanne in Provence, 2006, no. 39, illustrated in color in the catalogue
John Rewald, Paul Cézanne Correspondence, Paris, 1937, illustrated no. 14
Theodore Reff, "Cézanne's Constructive Stroke," in Art Quarterly, Fall 1962, vol. XXV, no. 3, illustrated fig. 2
Robert Simon, "Cézanne and the Subject of Violence," in Art in America, May 1991, illustrated in color p. 135
Le meurtre dans la ravine relates to an earlier oil painting, dated circa 1870, in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (see fig. 1). The present work reconstructs that painting's violent narrative against the idyllic backdrop of L'Estaque, a fishing village near Marseilles where Cézanne painted some of his best-known landscape compositions. Whereas the earlier oil features a forebodingly dark palette, evoking the most haunting imagery of Théodore Gericault and particularly Francisco de Goya, this version represents the immense changes that Cézanne's style underwent in that short time. The weight of the narrative is dispelled by the artist's light and airy palette, his brushstrokes loosely recording the familiar landscape. Thus it may be said that Le meurtre dans la ravine serves not only as a key example of Cézanne's early fascination with dark and morbid narratives, but also as a cornerstone for tracing his progression to the subject matter and style that would famously define his career.
The offered work was once in the collection of Édouard Manet's niece Julie (later Mme Ernest Rouart), who keenly observed its complexity in her diary: "[I saw] a small [watercolor] representing an assassination in Provence which is not at all frightening, the figures detaching themselves in very harmonious reds, blues and violets from a landscape that resembles Brittany or the Midi; round trees, masses of ground against a blue sea, in the distance some islands. M. Renoir also admired it. I bought it, thinking that it would not be stupid to do so. 'Look at that, a little collector,' M. Degas said to me" (John Rewald, Paul Cézanne: The Watercolors, New York, 1984, p. 93).
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