- Paul Cézanne
LA MONTAGNE SAINTE-VICTOIRE (recto)
FRUITS ET FEUILLAGE (verso)
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Estate of Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Robert de Galéa, Paris
(possibly) Martin Fabiani, Paris
Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York
John S. Thacher, Washington, D.C.
E. V. Thaw, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 1981
New York, Museum of Modern Art and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Cézanne: The Late Work, 1977-78, no. 97, recto illustrated in the catalogue pl. 133 and p. 524
Tübingen, Kunsthalle and Zurich, Kunsthaus, Cézanne Aquarelle, 1982, no. 72, recto and verso illustrated in the catalogue
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Classic Cézanne, 1998, no. 41, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Vienna, Kunstforum and Zurich, Kunsthaus, Cézanne: Finished --Unfinished, 2000, no. 109, recto illustrated in color in the catalogue
Ambroise Vollard archives, photograph no. 75 (recto)
Lionello Venturi, Cézanne. Son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, no. 1560, catalogued p. 337; vol. II, no. 1560, illustrated pl. 395 (recto: as dating from 1900-06)
Lionello Venturi (revised) (recto; as dating from 1895-1900)
Ursula Perucchi-Petri, Du, April 1982, recto illustrated pp. 20-21
John Rewald, Paul Cézanne. The Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1983, no. 503, catalogued p. 210; illustrated (recto); no. 207, catalogued p. 134; illustrated (verso)
Götz Adriani, Cézanne Watercolors, New York, 1983, no. 72, (recto) illustrated p. 277
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire treats what has undoubtedly become the most celebrated and iconic image in the art of Paul Cézanne, that of Mont Sainte-Victoire near his native Aix-en-Provence (see fig. 1). Cézanne first painted this subject in the 1880s, and with particular intensity from 1900 until the end of his life in 1906, immortalizing this landscape in a body of work that comprises some sixty paintings, watercolours and drawings. Most of Cézanne’s depictions of the mountain fall into three geographic groups: those made in the vicinity of his brother-in-law’s property at Bellevue (see fig. 2), those made at sites near the Tholonet road, including the present work, and those painted from or near his studio in Les Lauves (see fig. 4). In 1886 the artist’s brother-in-law acquired an estate south-west of Aix, with a panoramic view of the Arc valley with the mountain in the distance. Cézanne paid frequent visits to the estate, creating his first paintings, watercolors and pencil sketches of Sainte-Victoire. Whilst in the earliest depictions of this theme Sainte-Victoire is integrated into its surrounding landscape, in the later views it towers majestically over the valley.
The present work depicts Mont Sainte-Victoire from the west, showing the same view as another watercolor version (see fig. 3), now in the collection of the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Writing about these two works, Birgit Schwarz commented: "Both images are composed in such a way that the bulk of the mountain fills the full width of the paper. Nevertheless, the powerful volume appears almost to float, modelled out of the light ground of the paper with only a few pencil lines or strokes of the brush. The impression of lightness is due above all to the large areas of white paper left visible, which embody the bright Provençal sunlight reflected in the marble faces of the massif. Rather in the manner of an overexposed photograph, the mass of the mountain is dissolved by the brightness of the paper ground; only the shadows in the gently ascending line of the massif and the rocky ridges of its fissured surface seem to describe solid forms. The bizarre interior structures of this side of the mountain were also to play a major role in the view of Mont Sainte-Victoire that Cézanne painted from Les Lauves" (Birgit Schwarz, in Cézanne: Finished -- Unfinished (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 328).
The perspective of Cézanne’s depictions of Mont Sainte-Victoire was to change with his acquisition of a plot of land at Les Lauves in 1901, where he built a studio and moved in the autumn of the following year. Painted from the studio some twenty kilometres away from the mountain, Sainte-Victoire now appears in the distance, usually occupying the top third of the composition, with a valley in the foreground and a pattern of fields and trees in the middle distance. Seen from the vantage point offered by the artist’s studio, the mountain presents its most dramatic profile, with the gentle slope on the left and the steep one on the right meeting in the peak.
Executed in pencil and isolated patches of predominantly blue watercolor, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire is a testament to Cézanne’s virtuosity in this medium, as well as to his remarkably modern vision. By using the most minimal pictorial means he is able to render the depth, perspective and curves in the landscape in front of him, investing the areas of bare paper with an equal pictorial and compositional value to line and colour. While patches of watercolor suggest the undulations in the mountain and the subtle effects of light and shadow caused by them, the white, unpainted areas of the sheet evoke the imposing volume of the rocks. Although he abandons traditional perspectival devices and emphasises the flatness of the picture plane, the juxtaposition of the white mountain peak and the blue wash around it creates a powerful sense of depth and sets a dynamic contrast between the weight of the mountain and the lightness of the sky above.
According the John Rewald (op. cit., p. 210), the verso of this work, a delicate study of fruits and leaves of circa 1885, was discovered only in 1978.
Fig. 1, Mont Sainte-Victoire seen from Les Lauves, photograph by John Rewald, circa 1935
Fig. 2, Paul Cézanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue de Bellevue, 1882-85, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 3, Paul Cézanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1900-02, watercolor and pencil on paper, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Fig. 4, Paul Cézanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1904-05, oil on canvas, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow