Graphite on cream laid paper
22.9 x 30.5 cm. (9 x 12 in.)
Inscribed verso: Affecteux souvenir de Paul Cezanne 1915; and: Don de Mr Bret 1922
Artist’s son, Paul Cézanne (1872–1947), Paris. Maurice Renou, Paris; [sold to Walter Feilchenfeldt (b. 1939), Zurich, 1955]; sold to Henry Pearlman, by 1958; Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, 1983.
This early work by Cézanne belongs to a group of more than thirty imaginary scenes, many of which incorporate opaque watercolor, or gouache. Cézanne used this medium less frequently after lightening his palette during the 1870s, when he turned increasingly to the study of nature, prompted by the experience of painting outdoors with Camille Pissarro.
Both the watercolor and the adjacent drawing illustrate a scene from Book II of the Aeneid by Virgil, who was one of Cézanne’s favorite authors; as a high-school student, the artist excelled in Latin and ancient Greek, and he frequently cited or mentioned the writer in his letters.
In my art dealings, I always wanted the dealer to make a fair profit, and saw to it that he did. I also tried to make sure he was not making a fabulous profit on his sale to me…
In my art dealings, I always wanted the dealer to make a fair profit, and saw to it that he did. I also tried to make sure he was not making a fabulous profit on his sale to me. I have found some dealers quite versed in economics; if they have had a good first nine months of business profits, they tend to prefer to hold back on selling until their new fiscal year starts, or until they can sell for much higher prices. I always feel with some dealers that a price is not fixed in their mind at the moment when they first quote you one; they seem to be weighing my interest in the particular artist, watching my reaction to the painting very closely, then they take a deep breath and try you out with a quotation.
I was recently in a somewhat embarrassing situation. I had for several years owned an early drawing by Cézanne—a mythological subject titled Aeneas Meeting Dido at Carthage. I subsequently found a photograph in a book on Cézanne’s works of a watercolor of the same subject. I was on the lookout for this watercolor, as it would complement my drawing. While in Zurich recently I dropped in at a well-known gallery, and the proprietor brought out the very watercolor I was looking for. She explained that she had just purchased it from the grandson of Cézanne and had not had time to study it. She knew it to be a mythological early work and, knowing of my great interest in Cézanne, asked me what I thought it represented. I did not want to stray from the truth; on the other hand, I did not want to play up the importance of the watercolor, so I somehow managed to change the subject. After I had purchased the watercolor, at an eight percent discount from the original asking price, I explained what the subject was and that I already owned the original drawing. I then asked the dealer what her reaction would have been as to the price if I had explained my knowledge before she quoted me. She was very frank in saying that her original asking price would not have been higher but neither would there have been a discount given.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Cézanne is recognized as one of the great innovators of late 19th- and early 20th-century art, whose work has influenced countless modern artists. With an introverted temperament and generally anti-establishment stance, Cézanne forged a new approach to painting that sought not only to reflect nature but also to express his own response to it. Although during his formative years he exhibited with the Impressionists, he ultimately felt at odds with their emphasis on fleeting experience, seeking greater solidity through painterly form and structure.
Born in Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne studied drawing early on, but, fulfilling his father’s wishes, he later enrolled in university to study law. In 1861, however, he left for Paris, where he studied at the Académie Suisse and copied Romantic and Baroque art at the Louvre. Failing to gain entrance to the École des Beaux-Arts, and constantly rejected by the official Salon, Cézanne rebelliously painted in an intense, even violent, manner, with thickly encrusted paint. Finding a mentor in the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, in the 1870s Cézanne lightened his palette and started working directly from the landscape. He was influenced by the solidity of Pissarro’s brushwork and compositional structure, yet, like Paul Gauguin, whom he met in 1880, he sought to express his own personal perceptions and sensations through his views of nature.
By the late 1870s, Cézanne’s paintings showed increasing emphasis on mass and structure, and he developed a system of parallel brushstrokes, known as his “constructive stroke,” that conveyed the volume of both form and space. With mind and eye working in concert, Cézanne built up his pictures slowly and deliberately, often while directly confronting his motif, whether a landscape, still-life, or portrait. In Aix, the prominent form of Mont Sainte-Victoire became one of his dominant motifs from the mid-1880s until the end of his life. Attracted to its enduring geometric form and the changing views offered by different light and angles, Cézanne created more than thirty paintings in oil and watercolor that conveyed his intense examination of the subject’s underlying structures as well as the shifting nature of perception.
Cézanne used the medium of watercolor to experiment with form and structure, creating a wide range of effects through transparent planes of color and strokes of pencil. The exceptional luminosity of watercolor allowed him to play with light as a constructive element, while often using blank passages of paper to heighten the sense of space and form. Cézanne’s watercolors thus had a great influence on his oil paintings, seen particularly in his use of exposed areas of blank canvas as a constitutive element and passages that reveal open compositional structures, as exemplified in Route to Le Tholonet. Many successive generations of artists, from the Cubists and Fauvists to Abstract Expressionists, would be influenced by Cézanne’s experimental legacy.