Lot 408
  • 408

Paul Cézanne

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Paul Cézanne
  • Rochers
  • oil on canvas
  • 54 by 65cm., 21 1/4 by 25 1/2 in.


Private Collection, Switzerland
Sale: Schüller, Zurich, 21st March, 1997, lot 4396A
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Walter Feilchenfeldt, Jayne Warman & David Nash, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, an online catalogue raisonné, www.cezannecatalogue.com, no. 381 (accessed on 4th January 2016)


The canvas is not lined and this work is on its original stretcher. It has been partially cleaned in the past and the residual varnish is uneven and very milky, preventing UV light from fully penetrating. However, UV examination reveals a repaired tear (approximately 16cm. long) to the upper right quadrant, a small area towards the centre of the right edge (approx. 6cm. long) corresponding to a patch on the reverse of the canvas and another smaller area to the extreme lower left corner. There are a few further scattered spots of retouching to the sky. There is an added erroneous signature to the lower left corner only partially visible under UV and which could be removed by a restorer. There are scattered fine lines of stable craquelure, predominantly to the sky. This work is in overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted between 1867-70, Rochers is a highly significant example of Paul Cézanne’s rare early landscapes. In its palette of deeply-hued blue and greens and contrasts between light and shadow the present work recalls the landscapes of Gustave Courbet as well as those of the Barbizon School painters such as Camille Corot or Théodore Rousseau. However, Cézanne’s bold handling of paint and the rich texture of the pigment surface reveals his striving towards an entirely new pictorial language, one which, as it developed throughout his career, was to profoundly influence the direction of twentieth century painting.

In his extensive study of Cézanne’s early work, Lawrence Gowing has noted the following about this stage of Cézanne's career: ‘Cézanne was the first man [among the Impressionists], perhaps the first man in history, to realize the necessity for the manner in which paint is handled to build up a homogenous and consistent pictorial structure. This is the invention of forme in the French modernist sense—meaning the condition of paint that constitutes a pictorial structure. It is the discovery of an intrinsic structure inherent in the medium and the material’ (quoted in Cézanne, The Early Years (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London; Musée d'Orsay, Paris & The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988-89, p. 10).

By the time Cézanne commenced work on Rochers in 1867, he had been rejected three times by the Salon in Paris and had subsequently participated in the notorious Salon des Refusés alongside Edouard Manet and Camille Pissarro. If the capital offered many gifts to the young artist, the lure of his native Aix-en-Provence nevertheless endured and he returned often to find inspiration in the surrounding countryside. The rocky hillside and shady forests were furthermore ideal subject matter for his experiments with painting en plein air as recommended by Pissarro. Cézanne was delighted with the results of this new technique and wrote to Emile Zola, ‘But you know all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those painted outside. When outdoor scenes are represented… the landscape is magnificent. I see some superb things, and I must resolve to paint only outdoors’ (letter from Cézanne to Zola, 19th October 1866). Indeed Cézanne’s fascination with the wildly dramatic scenery of Provence would prove to be a defining feature of his art throughout his career, lending his paintings a personal poignancy even as they transcend genres and generations. The artist appears to have been particularly inspired by the particular scene depicted within Rochers, with its dramatically weathered rock and lush foliage, and executed a watercolour study of the same composition alongside the oil version.