• Impressionist Modern Day Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 2217

    Impressionist Modern Day Sale

    4 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 227

    Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

    Le Moulin à l'huile

    Price Realised  


    Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
    Le Moulin à l'huile
    oil on canvas
    14 7/8 x 17 7/8 in. (37.8 x 45.4 cm.)
    Painted circa 1872

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    With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Cézanne fled to l'Estaque on the Mediterranean coast of France, seeking refuge with his lover Hortense Fiquet, whom he had recently met in Paris. During this period of relative seclusion, the artist produced "landscapes of dramatic moods and contrasts, still lifes of serene equilibrium and of boldness, portraits of fascinating penetration and impetuous expression, as well as imaginary scenes of vibrant intensity and unconcealed eroticism" (J. Rewald, Cézanne, The Early Years 1859-1872, exh. cat., op. cit., 1988, p. 3). While the early period of Cézanne's career has been somewhat eclipsed by the silvery landscapes and sumptuous still lifes produced in the late 1880s, the artist nonetheless produced during his formative years canvases which presage his later fascination with modulated color, geometric analysis, and the physical substance of his subjects.

    Cézanne was born in 1839 to a wealthy banker in Aix-en-Provence. Developing artistic interest at an early age, and desperate for city life with its associated luxuries, he fled Aix to join his childhood friend Emile Zola in Paris in 1861. This initial sojourn would last only six months--the artist would later return to Paris after a year's attempt to work in the family business. Cézanne's early paintings reveal his admiration of artists such as Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet, whose work he encountered during his initial years in Paris. These canvases, composed of heavy, fluid pigment suggesting the moody, romantic expression of previous generations, are the hallmark of his oeuvre prior to his relocation to Pontoise and collaboration with Camille Pissarro in 1872-1873.

    The present work was first shown at an exhibition mounted by Félix Fénéon at the Montross Gallery in New York in 1916 which spanned roughly thirty years of the artist's oeuvre. A reviewer from The New York Times, taken with the canvas' clear anticipation of the artist's mature style, remarked, "[Le Moulin à l'huile] shows the painter's absorption in the substance of his material" (ibid.). Likewise, reviewer Willard Huntington Wright emphasized that "In this work...are those painter-like qualities which later Cézanne was to develop to so superlative a degree. It recalls Courbet at his best, and is more competent than Manet" (ibid., p. cxxx).

    Le Moulin à l'huile may be seen as an integral work in the artist's development, a concrete manifestation of his experimentation with the modulated brushstrokes and geometric analysis which would occupy him throughout his later career. As Lawrence Gowing has written:

    Cézanne's work found shadow while other painters, his Paris friends, sought light. Its emotional expression was often grievous... Love in it was inseparable from violence. Its caprice was ungoverned and its reason eccentric. Its portrayal of his world can now be recognised as as often brilliant and seemingly haunted by a spirit that is unexplained. Its stillness built a solidity into paint as no painting before had ever been built, as if paint could be as monumental as masonry (ibid., p. 5).


    (possibly) Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
    Adolphe Tavernier, Paris; sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 6 March 1900, (possibly) lot 10.
    (possibly) Jos Hessel, Paris.
    Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris.
    Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie. and Jos Hessel, Paris.
    Paul Rosenberg, Paris.
    Georges Bernheim, Paris.
    Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
    Galerie Etienne Bignou, Paris.
    The Lefevre Gallery, Ltd. (Alex. Reid & Lefevre), London (by 1937).
    C.W. Boise, Sussex; sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 24 April 1968, lot 70.
    Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.


    "A Representative Group of Cézannes Here," New York Times Magazine, 2 January 1916, p. 21.
    "Cézanne and Montross," Art News, 8 January 1916, p. 3.
    W. Wright, "Paul Cézanne," International Studio, February 1916, p. cxxx.
    T. Klingsor, Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1923, pl. 13 (illustrated).
    L. Venturi, Cézanne, son art-son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 97, no. 136 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 35; dated 1870-1871).
    Studio, April 1940 (illustrated).
    J. Rewald, Cézanne and America, Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics, 1891-1921, Princeton, 1989, p. 290 (illustrated, p. 292, fig. 146).
    J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, p. 145, no. 186 (illustrated in color, vol. II, pl. 64).


    New York, Montross Gallery, Cézanne, January 1916, no. 7.
    New York, Bignou Gallery, Paul Cézanne, November-December 1936, no. 7.
    London, The Lefevre Gallery, Ltd. (Alex. Reid & Lefevre), Cézanne, June 1937, no. 4.
    Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy and London, Tate Gallery, Paintings by Cézanne, August-October 1954, no. 9.
    Oslo, Kunstnerforbundet, Paul Cézanne, November-December 1954, no. 3.
    Cardiff, The Arts Council of Great Britain, How Impressionism Began, July-August 1960, no. 53.
    London, Royal Academy of Arts; Paris, Musée d'Orsay and Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, Cézanne, The Early Years 1859-1872, April 1988-April 1989, pp. 188-189, no. 59 (illustrated in color).