Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
Property of a Distinguished American Collection
Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

Arbres se croisant au bord de l'eau, II

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
Arbres se croisant au bord de l'eau, II
watercolor and pencil on paper
16 x 22 in. (40.6 x 55.9 cm.)
Executed circa 1896
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
George Reinhart, Winterthur.
Oskar Reinhart, Winterthur (by descent from above, until 1955).
Paul Rosenberg, New York.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, 1959.
L. Venturi, Cézanne, Paris, 1936, p. 256, no. 938 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 288; titled Les arbres en X and dated 1888-1897).
G. Nicodemi, Cézanne, Milan, 1944 (illustrated, pl. 60).
F. Novotny, Cézanne, New York, 1948 (illustrated, pl. 91).
A. Neumeyer, Cézanne Drawings, New York, 1958, p. 59 (illustrated, pl. 80).
A. Neumeyer, Die Badenden, Stuttgart, 1959 (illustrated, fig. 5).
C.G. Heise, Grosse Zeichner des XIX. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1959 (illustrated, fig. 141).
W. Rubin, ed., Cézanne: The Late Work, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1977 (illustrated, pl. 88).
J. Rewald, Paul Cézanne, The Watercolors, Boston, 1983, p. 204, no. 485 (illustrated, pl. 485).

Kunsthalle Basel, Paul Cézanne, August-October 1936, no. 82 (titled Am lac d'Annecy).
Kunsthaus Zurich, Sammlung Oskar Reinhart, December 1940-March 1941, no. 6.
Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Die Privatsammlung Oskar Reinhart, August-November 1955, no. 80 (illustrated).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Cézanne Watercolors, April 1963, no. 25 (illustrated, pl. XXI).

Lot Essay

Of all the themes that preoccupied Cézanne throughout his career, few captivated him with such intensity as the depiction of woods and trees. The artist's disciple and 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). Cézanne painted dozens of oils and about sixty-five watercolors that depict trees exclusively, including the stately allée of chestnuts at the Jas de Bouffan, the monumental pines of the Arc Valley, and the dense tangle of forest near the hamlet of Le Tholonet. Françoise Cachin has written, "From the Île-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, images of a nature whose vitality is almost suffocating" (ibid., p. 378).

Painted in the mid-1890s, the present watercolor coincides chronologically both with Cézanne's earliest solo exhibition at Ambroise Vollard's gallery and with the first widespread public recognition of his work. The painting is the larger and more fully worked of a pair of watercolors that explore the motif of two tree branches near the water's edge that cross to form a bold X-shape (cf. Rewald, no. 484). Nearly vertical tree trunks, echoed in the delicate reflections on the water, bracket the composition and contrast with the prominent diagonals of the central motif. Alfred Neumeyer has written, "In this large watercolor, the curious effect of two crossing trees attracted the artist... The geometrical pattern is further enhanced by touches of green, blue, and yellow which follow a horizontal-vertical arrangement. The lines are drawn with a fine and pointed brush--nearly pen-like in effect--contrasting in their precise definition with the broad atmospheric color veil. Notice how the branches to the left are adjusted to each other in their curvilinear shapes. The controlled agitation of the rendering gives an effect of majesty" (op. cit., p. 59).

John Rewald has suggested that the watercolor was painted at Talloires, a resort on the lake of Annecy where Cézanne and his family spent July and August of 1896. Although Cézanne painted some twenty watercolors during this sojourn (Rewald, nos. 466-485), he brought back only a single oil painting (Rewald, no. 805; Courtauld Institute Galleries, London). Accustomed to the open spaces of his native Provence, dominated by Mont Sainte-Victoire in the distance, Cézanne seems to have had difficulty adjusting to the topography of Annecy, where the mountains rise almost immediately from the shores of the tree-lined lake. He wrote to his childhood friend Philippe Solari, "When I was in Aix, it seemed to me that I should be better elsewhere, now that I am here, I think with regret of Aix... The lake is very good with the big hills all round, two thousand meters high they say, not as good as our home country, although without exaggeration it is really fine" (quoted in J. Rewald, op. cit., pp. 200-201).

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