Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
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Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

Forêt (recto); Arbres et buissons (verso)

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
Forêt (recto); Arbres et buissons (verso)
watercolor over pencil on paper
13 3/8 x 20 1/8 in. (33.9 x 51 cm.)
Executed circa 1890 (recto); Executed 1890-1895 (verso)
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Henri Matisse, Paris (acquired from the above, 1908).
Pierre Matisse, New York (by descent from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
W. George, Album Quatre Chemins, Paris, 1926, pl. 3 (recto illustrated).
L. Venturi, Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, p. 334, no. 1536 (recto dated 1880-1890; illustrated, vol. II, pl. 390).
J. Rewald, Paul Cézanne, The Watercolors: A Catalogue Raisonné, Boston, 1983, p. 164, no. 323 (recto illustrated, pl. 323); p. 187, no. 416 (verso illustrated, pl. 416).
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Lot Essay

*This lot may be exempt from sales tax as set forth in the Sales Tax Notice in the back of the catalogue.

Of all the themes that preoccupied Cézanne throughout his career, one subject that captivated him with a particular intensity was the depiction of the forest and trees. The artist's friend and first biographer, Joachim Gasquet, recalled, "He loved trees. Toward the end, with his need for sustained solitude, an olive tree became his friend. The tree's wisdom entered his heart. 'It's a living being,' he said to me one day. 'I love it like an old colleague. I'd like to be buried at its feet'" (quoted in, Cézanne, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1996, p. 372). There exist dozens of oils and an even larger number of watercolors and pencil sketches that depict intertwining branches, old knotted trunks laboriously supporting full branches and sparse trees after the fall of the leaves. Françoise Cachin has written, "From the Ile-de-France landscapes of the 1870s to the paintings of the Bibémus quarry and the environs of the Château Noir from the very last years of his life, Cézanne obsessively explored motifs of trees, forests, thickets, screens of foliage, and leafy masses, all viewed from a person's average height, with no trace of sky and no depth of field, images of a nature whose vitality is almost suffocating" (ibid, p. 378).

Cézanne depicted the motif of a screen of trees numerous times over in his work (fig. 1). He was inclined towards this subject through his association and particular admiration of Pissarro as well as the work of Courbet. Cézanne often omitted any indication of human presence beyond the line of trees, giving the viewer no entrance into the landscape. Cachin has noted that the artist was fascinated by the "invasive, all-powerful nature, selecting views in which nothing is visible beyond the trees but rocks and more plants." (ibid, p. 380). The solid line of the forest in the present lot, with only the slightest indication of the landscape beyond the foliage, creates a sense of mystery and adds a grandeur to work as we are not invited in and one can only imagine the unruly terrain that lies ahead.

There is an emphasis in the present work on surface patterning to create an organic environment. Cézanne renders a sense of space and depth through the darker and more heavily painted areas. The patches of color that make-up the foliage envelope the background of the sheet, while the trunks gracefully seem to stand on their own. These are not the aged trees seen in some of his other works, rather there is a vitality and energy conveyed through the fresh growth of the thin trunks and staccato strokes of his brush. In response to the present work, Rewald admired the "rhythmic arrangement of slender tree trunks amid delicate indications of foliage" (J. Rewald, op. cit., p. 164). The landscape study on the verso dates from a few years after the completion of the front of the sheet and provides an intimate look into the inner workings of the artist.

(fig. 1) Paul Cézanne, Chestnut Trees at the Jas de Bouffan, 1885-1886. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. BARCODE 25012507

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