Paul Cézanne’s art was one of the foundations of modernism, with particular influence on Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and other Cubists. Despite his significance as an artist, however, Cézanne has a relatively small representation in public institutions in Australia, and opportunities to acquire his art are limited. Mountain landscape near Aix is, then, a very generous gift for all Australians to enjoy.
As a young man, Cézanne was befriended by Impressionist Camille Pissaro, and he exhibited with the Impressionists in their first and third exhibitions of the ‘New Painting’, in 1874 and then 1877. Cézanne rejected certain tenets of the Impressionists and, instead, developed an idiosyncratic style. He was living back in Aix-en-Provence by 1895, perfecting landscapes of his home and its environs. The motif of Mont Saint-Victoire was a particular obsession, and he returned to it frequently.
Cézanne’s watercolour technique was radical. This particular work is an unusual view of the mountain range and takes as its central subject the Chaîne de l’Etoile—he also included the understated but recognisable Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur. This is an example of a mature composition in which brushstrokes both define and articulate the motif and translucent washes of colour create form.
He has depicted the landscape not as a transitory view of surface, pursued by many Impressionists, but with the profundity that characterised his personal style. It demonstrates why Cézanne was central in the development of French art and why he was so widely influential in the twentieth century.
The NGA hopes to acquire a select group of his works, which is why it has established the Cézanne Watercolour and Drawing Fund. To date, seven generous donors have contributed. Their gifts and donations, and yours, will help the NGA achieve this goal.
Jane Kinsman, Senior Curator, International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books
in artonview, issue 84, Summer 2015