Paul Cézanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839 - 1906)
Viaduct at l'Estaque (Le Viaduct à l'Estaque), 1882
Oil on canvas
17 3/4 x 21 1/8 in. (45.1 x 53.6 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund and Mrs. F. F. Prentiss Fund, 1950
Listen to a podcast about this artwork here
The steep, dry terrain of l'Estaque rises behind the equivocating horizontal of a train viaduct. With its formal simplifications and spatial ambiguities, this close, frontal view of a scrupulously observed motif typifies Cézanne's painting of the 1880s.
From the early 1870s, Cézanne frequently sojourned at the Mediterranean fishing village of l'Estaque, near the painter's home in Aix-en-Provence. The Viaduct at l'Estaque was almost certainly painted in the early months of 1882, during a visit to the site by Auguste Renoir.1 Renoir stopped in l'Estaque in January 1882 en route to Paris from Italy, and worked alongside Cézanne for a short time between late February and mid March.2 Ellen Johnson has established that Renoir's Rocky Crags at l'Estaque, signed and dated 1882 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts)3 was painted from nearly the same spot as Cézanne's Viaduct.4
Johnson's photographs show the slopes of the massive crags that dominate the views chosen by Cézanne and Renoir, and the tufts and clusters of pines that are still a distinctive feature of the site. In positioning himself slightly to the left of Cézanne, Renoir chose a view of the crag that partly concealed the abrupt projection of the cliff on the right. Renoir's preference for soft landscapes, rolling hills, curved shapes, and gentle transitions also accounts for the great differences between his canvas and Cézanne's Viaduct.5 While Renoir offers a landscape in which the viewer may wander and rest, Cézanne's Viaduct emphasizes the density and resistance of landscape as both a physical topography and a field of painterly perception and transcription.
Anchoring the composition and passing through the rock is the low horizontal of the viaduct which, in Rewald's words, "could easily thwart any attempt at 'penetrating' into the picture's depth." The viewer's points of entry and perusal are explicitly pictorial: "The subtle variations of colors and the vivacious brushwork, no longer rigidly slanted, smoothly lead the eye from the foreground trees to the remote crates set against the sky."6 The short, parallel strokes of the pine trees, and the blue, violet, and ochre patches of rock, enact the light, relief, and declivities of the landscape, and the process of transcribing these incidents--in pigment, on canvas--as an organized field of vision. As Johnson wrote in 1950, "the balance of the thrusts and counter-thrusts in the large planes is enriched by the action of these countless small ones and by their color and value modulations...this tension and resolution, has been carefully brought into unified relationship with the two-dimensionality of the picture surface."7
Cézanne painted at least one other view of the viaduct at l'Estaque that Rewald dates between 1879 and 1882, Le Viaduct à l'Estaque in Helsinki.8 The facture of that painting includes much of the diagonal stroke that characterized Cézanne's work shortly before the moment of the Oberlin canvas. Cézanne also painted at least three other views of the crags at l'Estaque during this period.9 From the mid '80s onward, the artist favored more expansive motifs from l'Estaque that frequently included a view of the bay.10
Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and attended the local Collège Bourbon, where he met the writer Emile Zola. Later he became a student at the École Municipale de Dessin, before studying law, as his father wished, at the Université d'Aix. Leaving his law studies early, Cézanne moved to Paris in 1861 and began to paint with Camille Pissaro. Consistently rejected by both the Paris Salon and various art schools, Cézanne returned to the south of France in 1870, thus also avoiding conscription in the war with Prussia. There he began to study nature and to experiment with landscape painting.In 1872, Cézanne joined the ranks of the and again worked closely with Pissarro before participating in the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. Cézanne's paintings were singled out for particularly harsh criticism by the French press, and he again retreated to Aix, where he focused on painting still lifes. In the mid 1870s, Cézanne began to explore the theme of the bathers in major paintings. He regularly visited Pissarro, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), and Auguste Renoir in northern France. Between 1882 and 1895 Cézanne turned away from Impressionism and began his radical and influential transformation of the physical forms of his subjects into a measured, weighty, and personal pictorial order. His intense and extended project focused on still lifes and landscape motifs, most notably the nearby Mount Sainte-Victoire.Towards the end of his life, Cézanne created many portraits and again focused on the theme of the bathers. These late paintings are seen as foreshadowing Cubism. Although several prominent collectors (including Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, Ambroise Vollard, and Paul Durand-Ruel) purchased Cézanne paintings during the artist's lifetime, his work was largely ignored or attacked. In the late 1890s, his paintings began to be noticed by younger artists, such as Émile Bernard (1868-1941). He is now considered one of the masters of nineteenth-century painting and his paintings have been extremely influential for many artists of the twentieth century.
Rewald, John. Cézanne: A Biography. New York, 1986.
Shiff, Richard. Paul Cézanne. New York, 1994
Monnier, Genevieve. In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. Vol. 6. New York and London, 1996, pp. 366-76.
Rewald, John. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1996.
With Ambrose Vollard, Paris (stockbook no. 3486) 11
Paul Cassirer, Berlin, possibly purchased March 31, 1913 (stockbook no. 2039) 12
Oskar Schmitz [1861 - 1933], Dresden, possibly 1913 until 1933 13
Possibly Schmitz estate, 1933-36
Edward Molyneux [1891–1974] Paris and Monte Carlo, by 1939 14
Wildenstein Galleries, Paris, London, and New York, after 1947 until 1950
1950 Purchase by Allen Memorial Art Museum
Berlin, 1913. XXVI Austellung der Berliner Secession. Cat. no. 30.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, 1932. Sammlung Oskar Schmitz. Cat. no. 29.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, 1933. Französiche Malerei des XIX. Jahrhunderts. Cat. no. 78.
Paris, Wildenstein Galleries, 1936. La Collection Oskar Schmitz (also shown at New York, Wildenstein Galleries). Cat. no. 12.
New York, French Pavilion, 1939. New York World's Fair. Cat. no. 369.
New York, Wildenstein Galleries, 1947. Cézanne. 27 March - 26 April. Cat. no. 21.
New York, Wildenstein Galleries, 1948. Six Masters of Post-Impressionism. 8 April - 8 May. Cat. no. 4.
The Art Institute of Chicago, 1952. Cézanne: Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings. 7 February - 16 March (also shown at New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Cat. no. 56.
New York, M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., 1954. Paintings and Drawings from Five Centuries: Collection Allen Memorial Art Museum. 3 - 21 February. Cat. no. 61.
Fort Worth, Art Center, 1954. Inaugural Exhibition. 8 - 20 October. Cat. no. 8.
The Hague, Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1956. Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906. June - July. Cat. no. 25.
Aix-en-Provence, Pavillon de Vend&Mac250;me, 1956. Exposition pour commencer le cinquentenaire de la mort de Cézanne. 21 July - 15 August. Cat. no. 31.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, 1956. Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906. 22 August - 7 October (also shown at Munich, Haus der Kunst, cat. no. 31). Cat. no. 25.
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 1956-57. Cézanne. December - January. Cat. no. 16.Milwaukee Art Museum, 1957. Six Great Painters. 12 September - 20 October. No cat.
New York, Wildenstein & Co., 1959. Cézanne. 4 November - 4 December. Cat. no. 22.
Berkeley, University Art Museum, University of California, 1960. Art from Ingres to Pollock. 6 March - 3 April. Cat. no. 22.
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie, 1961. Paul Cézanne. 14 April - 18 June. Cat. no. 20.
Aix-en-Provence, Pavillon de Vendôme, 1961. Exposition Cézanne: Tableaux - Aquarelles - Dessins. 1 July - 15 August. Cat. no. 9.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
Glaser, Curt. "Die XXVI Ausstellung der Berliner Secession." Die Kunst 27 (15 July 1913), pp. 457, 469.
Denis, Maurice. "Cézanne." Kunst und Kunstler 12 (January 1914), p. 215.
Dormoy, Marie. "La Collection Schmitz à Dresde." L'Amour de l'art 7 (1926), p. 338.
Pfister, Kurt. Cézanne, Gestalt, Werk, Mythos. Potsdam, 1927, p. 6.
Waldmann, Emil. "La Collection Oscar Schmitz." Documents 2 (1930), p. 320.
Venturi, Lionello. Cézanne: Son Art--Son Oeuvre. Vol. 1. Paris, 1936, p. 152, no. 401.
La Collection Oscar Schmitz. Exh. cat., Wildenstein and Company, Paris, 1936, p. 36.
Johnson, Ellen. "The Viaduct at l'Estaque of Paul Cézanne." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 7, no. 1 (Fall 1949), pp. 4-12.Sele Arte, no. 53 (September - October 1961), p. 69.
Johnson, Ellen H. "The Viaduct at l'Estaque, A Footnote." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 21, no. 1 (Fall 1963), pp. 24-28.
Stechow, Wolfgang. European and American Paintings and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, pp. 30-31, fig. 107.
Johnson, Ellen H. Fragments Recalled at Eighty: The Art Memoirs of Ellen H. Johnson. Edited by Athena Tacha. North Vancouver,1993, pp. 48-51.
John Rewald. The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné. Vol 1. New York, 1996, p. 297, no. 441.
The paint surface is even and of moderate thickness, with vigorous brushwork evident throughout. The white ground is thick enough to fill the mesh and much of the texture of the plain, tabby weave of the canvas. The canvas was reinforced, probably in the early twentieth century, with an aqueous lining. The original tacking margins have been cut off, probably during the lining process.The ground, surface, and paint are in good condition. Slight losses of ground and paint at the edges were inpainted at the ICA (Intermuseum Laboratory) in 1961, mainly along the bottom edge. A natural resin varnish was removed in 1961 and replaced with PVA-AYAA.
1. The 1882 date for the painting was established by Johnson in 1963. See Ellen Johnson, "Viaduct at l'Estaque: A Footnote," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 21, no. 1 (Fall 1963), pp. 25-28. Footnote 5, p. 28, cites alternate dates that had been proposed for the work, in addition to the 1882-85 range published in the Lionello Venturi catalogue raisonne (Cézanne: Son Art--Son Oeuvre, vol. 1 [Paris, 1936], no. 401). See also John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New York, 1996), no. 441.
2. On 23 February 1882, Renoir wrote Durand-Ruel: "I was at l'Estaque, a little place like Asnières, but on the seacoast. Since it's so beautiful, my goodness, I'm staying here another two weeks. It would really be a pity to leave this beautiful country without bringing something back from it. What weather! Spring with a sweet sun and no wind is rare in Marseille. What's more, I met Cézanne here and we're going to work together." They could not have painted together a great deal on this occasion, for Renoir soon fell ill. On 2 March, he wrote Victor Chocquet that he was convalescing in Cézanne's care, and that Cézanne would shortly go up to Paris. Cézanne left sometime in March, and Renoir went to Algiers. John Rewald, Paul Cézanne, a Biography (New York, 1948), pp. 133-34; cited in Ellen Johnson, "Viaduct at l'Estaque: A Footnote," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 21, no. 1 (Fall 1963), p. 25.
3. Oil on canvas, 66.5 x 81.9 cm; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection, inv. 36.678; reproduced in Nicholas Wadley, ed., Renoir: A Retrospective (New York, 1987), colorplate 79.
4. Ellen Johnson, "Viaduct at l'Estaque: A Footnote," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 21, no. 1 (Fall 1963), pp. 24-28, for the mention of Renoir's view.
5. See Ellen Johnson, "Viaduct at l'Estaque: A Footnote," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 21, no. 1 (Fall 1963), pp. 27-28. Renoir's composition is quite close to that of Cézanne's Au fond du ravin, l'Estaque (Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts); John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 [New York, 1996], no. 393). Rewald dates Au fond du ravin, l'Estaque no later than 1882 for reasons of style, and suggests that Renoir saw it during his visit.
6. John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New York, 1996), no. 441.
7. Ellen Johnson, "The Viaduct at L'Estaque of Paul Cézanne," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 7, no. 1 (1949), pp. 353-54. This article offers an extensive visual analysis of this work, while placing it within the formal context of modernist painting in the practice of both Cézanne and Picasso.
8. Le Viaduc à l'Estaque, 1879-92, oil on canvas, Helsinki, Finland, Ateneumin Taidemuseu; John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New York, 1996), no. 439.
9. Au fond du ravin, l'Estaque, Houston, Museum of Fine Arts; Paysage en Provence, Collection Polo Corporation, Japan; and Rochers à l'Estaque, Museu de Arte de Sào Paulo, Brazil, Chateaubriand Collection; John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New York, 1996), nos. 393, 440, and 442, respectively.
10. La Baie de l'Estaque, 1879-83, Philadelphia Museum of Art, inv. 1963-116--21; John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New York, 1996), no. 444.
11. According to John Rewald, The Paintings of Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, 1996), no. 441.
12. This date appears in John Rewald's notes for the catalogue raisonné, which he sent to the AMAM in 1989, but no dates are included in the provenance for this work in the 1996 (posthumous) catalogue raisonné. In Wolfgang Stechow, European and American Paintings and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1967), p. 30, the 1913 purchase by Cassirer is followed by a question mark.
13. Schmitz's ownership is documented between 1930 and 1936; according to Rewald's notes of 1989, Schmitz bought the work in 1913 at the Berlin Secession exhibition. Other paintings in Schmitz's collection at the time of his death transferred to his estate. Cf. provenance history of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Grands Boulevards (Philadelphia Museum of Art, acc. no. 1986-26-29).
14. See Five Centuries of History Mirrored in Five Centuries of French Art. New York, 1939, cat. no. 369, pl. LXVII