Provence Live an Aix-périence guaranteed Aix-en-Provence Study opportunities in Aix-en-Provence An ideal introduction to Aix-en-Provence
Practical information Maps and where abouts History of Aix
Kiosk, news and events Camargue Architecture in Aix
Festivals, concerts, night life Short cut Traditions in Aix
Art gallery to send us an e-mail Looking for Cézanne



Paul Cézanne  
Looking for Cézanne...
The Jas de Bouffan, where Cézanne completed over seventy paintings, drawings and watercolours, stands outside the city. It is now hemmed in on all sides by fast tarmac and modern high-rise apartments. Bought by his father as a "country place", it is now both a landmark and a "generic term" for a large suburban area surrounding it. The Jas, "sheepfold of the winds" has preserved a faded dignity that ignores the century that roars beyond its gates. Situated on the route de Galice, the property was sold by Cézanne when his mother died in 1897, and has recently been acquired by the City. The proceeds of the sale served to construct his "atelier" above town on the chemin des Lauves. The transfer of the Jas to the City a century later is doubtless destined to further increase traffic rendering unto Aix more than Cézanne himself, in his worst nightmare, could have dreamed.
Of all the "addresses" in town, the atelier Cézanne (Avenue Paul Cezanne) alone still breathes the artist’s world : the intimacy of a nature morte, garden, easels, furniture and vestiges of his last years (the Grandes Baigneuses were too "grandes" to enter by the door !) His "recherches" altered and liberated artistic vision as it was understood at the close of the century. His easel and his mind’s eye foreshadowed a new order and new possibilities of which, fortunately perhaps, he could not foresee the consequences : secularisation, vulgarisation, "anything goes-ism" of an age that has lost its bearings, and faith.
Liberation has exacted a terrible price, values have been relativized, a "Nietszchean Umwertung aller Werte" resolves itself into a price tag based on marketing and opinion polls. The soul "cela n’existe pas". Cézanne’s atelier speaks louder and more authentically of the artist than all the addresses, schools, family banks and hat shops to which he preferred the pines, the red earth, and the countryside along the route du Tholonet, the route de Vauvenargues, and the valley of the Arc river.
To the east of Aix-en-Provence, a great upsurge of limestone known as the Mont Sainte-Victoire overlooks the route du Tholonet on its abrupt southern flank and the route de Vauvenargues on its gentler northern slope. This modest segment of a circle of which Aix is the center is the least spoiled by modern urban development. It is agreeable to reflect that a substantial portion of this "pie" owes its integrity to Cézanne and to his ardent defenders, notable among whom are John Rewald and other American benefactors.
The triangular western face of the mountain looks across to the Bibémus quarries, their giant reds and ochre blocks serving as his stepping stones into "cubism". The beauty of the route du Tholonet, Château Noir, Beaurecueil, Gardanne, le plateau du Cengle, and numerous "paysages" with or without a view of the mountain, lives, in part at least, by the light, colors and forms that Cézanne has taught the world to see in them.
About half way between Aix-en-Provence and the village of Le Tholonet a stone marks the spot from which he painted one of his best known canvases. A hundred years of natural growth has drawn a curtain across the motif but, in passing beyond it, the distance between foreground and mountain, shrunken in his painting as by the magic of the telephoto lense, allows us to share a small but essential part of his vision. The same startling immediacy is rendered in his 1896 canvas of the château de Duingt viewed from Talloires across Lake Annecy. Suzanne Lansé, the acknowledged maître of the Alps, sees the château as a speck on a headland jutting into the lake. Cézanne, for whom the majesty of the high alps was a painful homesickness (dépaysement) declares in a letter to his friend Philippe Solari that he does "a little painting to pass the time". His dramatic rendering of the view, while it appears to cast doubt on his judgment, confirms what we know of his tendency to self depreciation, a convenient defense for his extraordinary inner strength and farouche originality.


Copyright © Provence Live 2011