I suppose it is only natural that when a landscape artist moves to live in a new place the surrounding area will become subjects for their future paintings. The year 1886 was a memorable year for the French Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. Firstly he married Hortense Fiquet, a model he had been living with for seventeen years and in this same year his father died. After the death of his father, Louis that August, Cézanne inherited the family estate, Jas de Bouffain, which was situated on the outskirts of Aix, in Provence, and he moved there from Paris. Nearby and to the east, looms the mountain, Sainte-Victoire, which dominates the countryside of this area. Cézanne was mesmerised by, and fell in love with, the view of this peak and the surrounding area. Locals venerated it for its legendary ties to antiquity—its very name had come to be associated with a celebrated victory by the ancient Romans against invading Teutonic armies. Over many years, Cézanne produced forty four oil paintings and forty three watercolours of the area.
My Daily Art Display today features an early painting of this subject, simply entitled Montagne Sainte-Victoire which he completed in 1887 and hangs in the Courtauld Gallery in London. It shows the mountain as viewed from the west, some eight miles away. The tree branches in the foreground frame the panoramic view of the valley in the middle ground and the mountain in the background. Cezanne has focused on a comparatively small part of the scene but the mountain has been given a dominant central position in the work. The middle ground is dominated by farmland and the yellows of the wheat fields. To the far right of the painting in the middle-ground, one can see the presence of a railway viaduct.
There is a gradual transition from the clearer greens of the vegetation and the orange-yellows of the buildings seen in the foreground of the picture to the softer atmospheric blues and pinks on the mountain in the background. Cézanne has connected the foreground and the background by the way he has given the foliage in the foreground the blue and pink tinges similar to the colour shades of the mountain.
With this painting, Cézanne has captured the peaceful and serene beauty of this part of Provence. This was Cézanne’s truly exquisite and picturesque Shangri-la.