Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne
Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune, 1888–1890
Pichet de grès, 1893/94
Nature morte avec pastèque entamée, ca. 1900
Sept baigneurs, ca. 1900
Sous-bois (Chemin du Mas Jolie au Château noir), 1900–1902
Route avec arbres sur une pente, ca. 1904
La route tournante en haut du chemin des Lauves, 1904–1906
Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune, 1888–1890
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Paul Cézanne
Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune, 1888–1890

Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair
Oil on canvas, 80.3 x 64.3 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

The portrait of Madame Cézanne in a yellow armchair is as simple in appearance as it is monumental. The subject’s individuality seems to have been less important to Cézanne than his construction of the figure from coloured forms of an almost stereometric nature, which both individually and in close juxtaposition create a sculptural effect. The overall composition, however, seems to call this three-dimensionality into question – evident, for example, in the ostensible shift in the angle of the wall moulding running behind the yellow armchair. Picasso might conceivably have known this work since he treated the motif in his painting Femme en vert (Dora) in a similar fashion.

Pichet de grès, 1893/94
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Currently exhibited at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid

Paul Cézanne
Pichet de grès, 1893/94

Stoneware Pitcher
Oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

This work is a beautiful example of one of Cézanne’s favourite themes – the still life. The curves of the Stoneware pitcher and the apples, as well as the folds of the cloth, have been rendered with extraordinary plasticity reminiscent of the classical still lifes by Chardin. Yet the further one explores the depiction, the more ambiguous the relationship between the sense of space and the pictorial plane becomes. This is particularly evident top right: is that not a picture within the picture, likewise showing painted apples as well as a section of another painting? Or has the artist here abandoned the traditional perspectival way of seeing?

Nature morte avec pastèque entamée, ca. 1900
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Paul Cézanne
Nature morte avec pastèque entamée, ca. 1900

Still Life with Sliced Open Watermelon
Watercolour and pencil on paper, 31.5 x 47.5 cm
Photo: Cantz Medienmanagement, Ostfildern

The endless possibilities for arranging a small number of objects into a still life as a means of addressing painterly problems repeatedly posed Cézanne new challenges. In Still life with a sliced-open watermelon, one of his most beautiful and best-preserved watercolours, it is the combination of pencil lines and taches – patches of colour that here are translucent on account of being painted in watercolour – that defines the objects. Another important aspect is how the artist plays with the impression of space and plasticity, for example in the spoon and knife protruding into the picture like the hands of a clock.

Sept baigneurs, ca. 1900
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Paul Cézanne
Sept baigneurs, ca. 1900

Seven Bathers
Oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm
Photo: Christian Baur, Basel

Prompted by his study of the Old Masters and evidently also by the desire to evoke a kind of paradisiacal condition, a Golden Age in the form of a perfect masterpiece, from the 1870s onwards Cézanne returned again and again to the theme of ‘bathers’. The Fondation’s Seven Bathers is especially beautiful. Here, too, Cézanne explores the correspondence between the brush drawing and patches of colour to blend the figures into the landscape. Particularly striking in this scene are the numerous clusters of black lines that possibly depict reeds or could be interpreted as repeated attempts to redefine the figures’ contours. Or was Cézanne seeking to convey the figures’ movements?

Sous-bois (Chemin du Mas Jolie au Château noir), 1900–1902
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Paul Cézanne
Sous-bois (Chemin du Mas Jolie au Château noir), 1900–1902

Forest Scene (Path from Mas Jolie to Château noir)
Oil on canvas, 79.8 x 64.6 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Paul Cézanne had a defining influence on the inception of modernism; indeed, his approach to painting revolutionized modern art. By assigning inherent value to a painting’s manner of execution – as distinct from its subject matter – he shifted the focus of art onto the work itself. This was a crucial step in the development of abstract art, which renounces subjects in the traditional sense.

The translation of the three-dimensionality of perceived reality into the two-dimensionality of the pictorial surface – a process Cézanne called réalisation – is quite beautifully exemplified by Forest scene (Path from Mas Jolie to Château noir). Working, as ever, in the open air and in front of the subject, he established the picture’s overall structure with a few thin brushstrokes. Horizontal lines indicate the ground, vertical lines the trees. He rendered every sensory impression that struck his eyes – especially the colour hues – with his famous taches, patches of modulated colour consisting of just a few strokes of the brush from which he built the entire picture. Although his system of coloured taches is independent of the subject, the painting still vividly captures the atmosphere of the woods around Montagne Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence.

Route avec arbres sur une pente, ca. 1904
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Paul Cézanne
Route avec arbres sur une pente, ca. 1904

Road with Trees on a Slope
Watercolour and pencil on paper, 47.5 x 31 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

The watercolour Road with trees on a slope shows a motif similar to that of the painting Sous-bois. Here the initial pencil strokes support the arrangement of the patches and lines of colour delineating the tree trunks.

La route tournante en haut du chemin des Lauves, 1904–1906
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Currently exhibited at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid

Paul Cézanne
La route tournante en haut du chemin des Lauves, 1904–1906

Bend of the Road at the Top of the Chemin des Lauves
Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

The painting Bend of the road at the Top of the Chemin des Lauves shows a stretch of road just uphill from the studio the artist had set up for himself in 1902. Whereas the two forest scenes by Cézanne in the Fondation Collection have a loose, airy quality, here the paint is applied in thick impasto that more clearly accentuates the structure and gives the paint as a material an almost palpable feel.

Paul Cézanne

1839, Aix-en-Provence – 1906, Aix-en-Provence

In 1861 Cézanne went to Paris, where in the conventional fashion he set about copying Poussin, Delacroix and Daumier, painting romantic, baroque-like compositions of figures in dark, thickly applied colours. His palette gradually brightened after being introduced to the Impressionists by his childhood friend Emile Zola and, in 1873, having started painting outdoors under the influence of his fellow artist Pisarro. He exhibited with the Impressionists in 1874 and 1877, but it was not until 1895 that he was given a first one-man exhibition in the gallery of Ambroise Vollard in Paris. From the 1890s onwards he lived mostly in his home town of Aix-en-Provence. It was here, particularly through his landscape studies of the countryside around Mont Sainte-Victoire, but also in still lifes and portraits, that he developed his own style. This involved reducing natural phenomena to simple elementary geometric forms, flattening spatial depth and building the picture’s composition from finely modulated spots of colour. It was by thus releasing form and colour from their representational function that he emerged as the major precursor of modern painting.

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