Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
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Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)

L'Estaque aux toits rouges

Details
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
L'Estaque aux toits rouges
oil on canvas
25 ¾ x 32 in. (65.5 x 81.4 cm.)
Painted in 1883-1885
Provenance
Auguste Pellerin, Paris.
Jean-Victor Pellerin, Paris (by descent from the above, 1929).
Ingeborg Pellerin, Paris (by descent from the above, 1970).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1978).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 15 June 1978.
Literature
C.H. Caffin, The Story of French Painting, New York, 1911, p. 221 (illustrated; titled Landscape).
F. Burger, Cézanne und Hodler: Einführung in die Probleme der Malerei der Gegen, Munich, 1913 (illustrated, pl. 95; titled Seelandschaft).
G. Coquiot, Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1919, p. 246 (illustrated, p. 113; titled L'Estaque and dated 1883).
T.-L. Klingsor, Maîtres de l'art moderne: Cézanne, Paris, 1923 (illustrated, pl. 7; titled L'Estaque).
G. Rivière, Le Maître Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1923, p. 207 (titled L'Estaque and dated 1878).
E. Faure, P. Cézanne, Paris, 1926 (illustrated, pl. 50; titled L'Estaque).
R. Huyghe, "Cézanne et son oeuvre" in L'amour de l'art, May 1936, vol. XVII, p. 184 (illustrated, fig. 72; titled L'Estaque and dated circa 1890).
L. Venturi, Cézanne—Son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 152, no. 399 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 110; titled La mer à l'Estaque and dated 1882-1885).
J. Rewald, "A propos du catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre de Paul Cézanne et de la chronologie de cette oeuvre" in La Renaissance, March-April 1937, vol. 20, nos. 3-4, p. 56.
F. Novotny, Cézanne und das Ende der wissenschaftlichen Perspektive, Vienna, 1938, p. 213, no. 109 (illustrated, fig. 42; titled Blick auf L'Estaque and dated circa 1883) and p. 64, note 58.
R. Cogniat, Cézanne, Paris, 1939 (illustrated, pl. 44; titled La mer à l'Estaque and dated 1882-1885).
M. Raynal, Cézanne, London, 1939 (illustrated in color; titled La mer à l'Estaque and dated 1882-1885).
G. Schildt, Cézanne, Stockholm, 1946 (illustrated in color, pl. I; dated 1882-1885).
C.L. Ragghianti, Impressionnisme, Turin, 1947 (illustrated in color, pl. XLII; dated 1882-1885).
B. Dorival, Cézanne, Paris, 1948, p. 157 (illustrated in color, pl. 76; titled La mer à l'Estaque and dated 1882-1885).
R.W. Ratcliffe, Cézanne's Working Methods and Their Theoretical Background, Ph.D. Diss. Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, 1961 (dated 1881-1884).
L. Brion-Guerry, Cézanne et l'expression de l'éspace, Paris, 1966, pp. 107-112.
S. Orienti, The Complete Paintings of Cézanne, New York, 1970, p. 105, no. 415 (illustrated).
J. Rewald, Cézanne: A Biography, New York, 1986, p. 154 (illustrated in color).
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, no. 517 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 167).
N.M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture, Chicago, 2003, p. 114 (illustrated in color, fig. 3.13).
V. Serrano, Cézanne in Provence, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 136 (illustrated in color, fig. 14).
G.-P. and F. Dauberville, Paul Cézanne chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2010, p. 470, no. 121 (illustrated, p. 471; titled Paysage (L'Estaque)).
F. Novotny, Paul Cézanne: Gesammelte Schriften zu seinem Werk und Materialien aus dem Nachlaß, Vienna, 2011 (illustrated, fig. 42).
G. Blanc, L'Estaque: Art et patrimoine, chronique d'une double histoire, Gémenos, 2013, p. 170, no. 17 (illustrated in color).
G. Blanc, L'Oeuvre de Cézanne à L'Estaque, huiles, aquarelles, dessins, 1864-1885, Marseille, 2019, pp. 97-99 (illustrated in color, p. 96, fig. 112 and p. 98, fig. 114).
G. Blanc, Et si L'Estaque m'était contée?, 2020, p. 155 (illustrated).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (www.cezannecatalogue.com), no. FWN 191 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Cézanne, May-October 1936, no. 55 (illustrated, pl. XXIV).
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Lot Essay

“I have rented a little house at the foot of the hill, where behind me rise the rocks and pines,” Paul Cézanne wrote to his childhood friend, Émile Zola from L’Estaque in the south of France, in May 1883. “I am still busy painting. I have here some beautiful views…climbing the hills as the sun goes down one has a glorious view of Marseille in the background and the islands, all enveloped towards evening to very decorative effect” (quoted in A. Danchev, ed., The Letters of Paul Cézanne, Los Angeles, 2013, pp. 228-229). Over the course of the following two years, this view provided the inspiration for some of the most innovative landscapes of Cézanne’s career. It was here, far from Paris and secluded from his family in Aix, that the artist conceived a radical new form of landscape painting, paving the way for future generations of artists. Moving beyond the ephemeral, fleeting Impressionist conception of a landscape, Cézanne translated its colors and forms into compositions at once alive with the dazzling light and intense heat of the south, while at the same time remaining monumental, harmonious, and above all, timeless.
Exhibited only once since it was painted, LEstaque aux toits rouges is one of the culminating works of the intense surge of creativity L’Estaque had unleashed in the artist over a series of visits there in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Carefully cropped and vibrantly colored, it is among the finest of these definitive L’Estaque paintings, its construction, from the cubically-formed houses, to the plane of blue sea, making this one of the most radical and innovative landscapes of this period.
Here, the various aspects of artistic exploration that Cézanne had been pursuing have come together in complete accord. Cézanne has divided this expansive vista into three distinct sections—land, sea, and sky—all of which are framed by two stately pine trees that serve as repoussoirs, a classical device that frames this daringly modern composition. Dominating the scene is the geometric network of glowing terracotta roofs and cubic, ochre-walled buildings of the town as it descends steeply to the wide expanse of water beyond. The sky and sea appear as bands of blue, divided by an almost unnaturally straight and high horizon line. The waters of the bay of Marseille appear weighty and solid, depicted as a near abstract plane that dominates this luminous composition, the smokestack and church towers like collaged cutouts against this great azure mass.
An illusionistic sense of pictorial space is skewed; everything is tipped upwards, pushed up against the picture plane rather than receding away into the distance, the centuries-old Albertian concept of a painting as a “window onto the world” distorted. As with perspectival depth, so too shadows are absent, heightening the sense of stillness and serenity that characterizes the work. Yet, despite the artist’s rigorous gaze and meticulously considered compositional construction, this painting is far from seeming artificial, or distanced from nature itself: the canvas seems to quiver with the intense light and blazing heat of the Provençal summer, the ancient, harsh grandeur of this corner of southern France brought thrillingly to life.
Cézanne’s ultimate artistic goal and lifelong quest was not solely to depict the world as it appeared, but to render the sensation of standing amid nature. As a result, his painting became centered around the process of this observation: how objects appear and how they exist and interact with the space surrounding them. It is this play between reality, our perception of it, and its painted representation that lies at the heart of Cézanne’s art. “All that we see dissipates and disappears, does it not? Nature is always the same, but nothing remains of what we see of it. It is our art that must convey the sense of permanence, capture the elements in all their changing forms. It should give us a taste of the eternal. What lies beneath? Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. Everything, you understand?” (Cézanne, quoted in A. Danchev, zanne: A Life, London, 2013, p. 339).
It was under the azure skies and among the rugged landscape of L’Estaque that Cézanne began to realize this ambitious aim. His time in this unassuming fishing village, now considered as a crucible of modern art, reshaped his artistic vision. It was here that he not only comprehended the importance of nature to his art, but on a deeper level, he realized the strong personal ties he held with Provence itself. As Nina Athanassoglou-Kallmyer has described, “This seaside town…is one of those magical places where such an astonishing harmony has been achieved between art and landscape, between painter and place, that one cannot fully comprehend the aesthetic path followed by Cézanne—which began at the Jas de Bouffan and ended at Sainte-Victoire—without taking account of this relationship” (zanne in Provence, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 124).
A glimpsed corner of the Orient
Situated on a yawning arc of the coast some five miles northwest of Marseille and eighteen miles southwest of Aix, Cézanne’s birthplace, the small fishing village of L’Estaque was perched on a rocky, pine-filled hillside that sloped sharply down to the Mediterranean sea. Thanks to the amphitheater-like shape of the terrain in which it sat, L’Estaque was protected from the mistral and remained bathed in light from sunrise to sunset, even in the winter months. A seaside resort, it was also an industrial center, with tile factories and brickworks forming the core of the local economy.
“The countryside is superb,” Zola described in a short story, Naïs Micoulin of 1877, his words perfectly complementing LEstaque aux toits rouges. “Rocky arms jut out on either side of the gulf, while the islands off shore seem to block the horizon; and the sea is nothing but a large pool, in fine weather a lake of vivid blue… When the sun is high in the sky, the ocean seems to lie sleeping between the two rocky headlands, whose paleness is warmed by yellow and brown. The pines stain the reddish earth with patches of dark green. It is an immense picture, a glimpsed corner of the Orient, rising up in the blinding shimmer of the day” (quoted in J. Rewald, zanne and America, Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics, 1891-1921, London, 1989, pp. 357-358).
By the time that Cézanne painted LEstaque aux toits rouges, more than two decades had passed since his first visit to the town. While he likely visited L’Estaque throughout his childhood, the first time he is recorded there with certainty was in 1864, when his mother rented a house there for the summer. Over the following years, L’Estaque would gain in importance, both personally and artistically for the artist. It was there that Cézanne fled in 1870 when avoiding conscription in the Franco-Prussian War, remaining holed up with his girlfriend, Hortense Fiquet. Some years later in 1878, the town again provided solace when his father found out about his relationship with Hortense and the existence of their young son, Paul.
Artistically too, L’Estaque played an ever more central role in Cézanne’s art throughout these years. After a period spent in Pontoise and Auvers working alongside his mentor Camille Pissarro, Cézanne returned to L’Estaque again in the summer of 1876. By this point, he had left behind the dark palette, bold, impetuous paint handling, and mythological subjects of his early career. Using the brighter colors and lighter brushwork that Pissarro had inspired, he had followed the Impressionist maxim to work en plein air to depict the landscape around him. Indeed, by this time, Cézanne was seeking something more in his depiction of the landscape, beginning to move towards his lofty goal to “make of Impressionism something solid and more enduring like the art in museums” (quoted in J. Rewald, Paul zanne, trans. M.H. Liebman, London, 1959, p. 122).
Its like a playing card. Red roofs against the blue sea”
It was the intense light and striking landscape of L’Estaque that provided Cézanne with the path towards this artistic aim. Now working predominantly from elevated viewpoints, he began to capture nature in an increasingly simplified and monumental manner, using his signature constructive brushstrokes to render the structure of the subject in front of him, as well as the space that surrounded it, conveying it as a combination of forms, planes and colors. In 1876, he wrote to Pissarro from L’Estaque, “I have begun two small motifs with the sea… It’s like a playing card. Red roofs against the blue sea. If the weather turns favorable I might be able to finish them off… It’s olive trees and pines, which always keep their leaves. The sun here is so frightful that it seems to me the objects are silhouetted not in white or black, but in blue, red, brown, violet. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that this is the opposite of modeling” (quoted in zanne, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1996, p. 164).
Cézanne’s words to Pissarro demonstrate a fundamental turning point in his art, as he realized an alternate approach to depicting nature. Reducing the landscape to its elemental components—sea, sky, vegetation, and the terracotta-color buildings of the town—Cézanne increasingly experimented with an abstract construction of the world around him, in which overlapping planes of color take the place of conventional modeling. He struggled, though, to master these radically new means of expression.
It was not until the mid-1880s—paradoxically, a period of great turbulence in his personal life, culminating in a disastrous love affair with a woman from Aix and an irreparable rupture with his comrade Zola—that he succeeded in realizing on canvas the powerful sensation of immutability and monumentality that he experienced before the motif, as LEstaque aux toits rouges demonstrates. By this time, Cézanne was fully aware of all that L’Estaque had to offer, now spending more time there than at his family home, the Jas de Bouffan, in nearby Aix.
In May 1883, as his letter to Zola attests (quoted at the beginning of this essay), he had taken a house outside of the village, in the quartier du Château to the north, above the railway. This positioning allowed him unfettered access to his preferred elevated viewpoints, as he honed in on two primary motifs: that of the present work, with its tightly cropped, perfectly balanced combination of land, sea, and sky, as the artist looked directly down over the rooftops of the town, and the more expansive, panoramic eastward vista that looked out across the bay and the neighboring village of Saint-Henri, with the hills of Saint-Marseilleveyre beyond. In addition, Cézanne also looked inland in a few of his compositions of this time, painting the rocky outcrops and vegetation. “It was an unforgettable sight,” Pierre-Auguste Renoir recalled when he visited the artist in L’Estaque in 1882. “Cézanne standing at his easel, painting, looking at the countryside: he was really lost to the world, ardent, concentrated, attentive, respectful” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2006, n.p.).
Works from this time, such as LEstaque aux toits rouges serve as the culmination of Cézanne’s successive stays in L’Estaque. Each aspect of the landscape coexists in perfect accord, depicted with deft touches of color. “His paintings of the Gulf of Marseille of circa 1885 offer a far more expansive and harmoniously resolved view than the ones he had labored to construct [earlier],” Mary Tompkins Lewis has written. “Though still built around the immense contrasts that had long drawn him to Provence—the brilliant reds, oranges, and greens of buildings and the landscape that oppose the rich violet-blues of the sea and mountains, or the powerfully modeled, volumetric forms and patterned order of the foreground opposing the flat expanse of the sea—all parts are bound together now by the painter’s even, and delicately nuanced, touch... The familiar subject of Provence becomes restorative, even, at times, magisterial” (zanne, London, 2000, p. 217).
The painter of Provence
It was Cézanne’s innate love and knowledge of the Provence landscape that facilitated these extraordinary views of L’Estaque. While now his name is inseparable from this region, at this time, he was still forging the connection between his art and his home, discovering how he could harness the visual power of this place in painterly form. It was his deep familiarity and love of Aix and the surrounding countryside, an area filled with memory and emotion both past and present, that paradoxically lends his depictions of this place a sense of mystery and wonder. By knowing the landscape so intimately, the more Cézanne was aware of its defining details, its magical qualities. Just as the Mont Sainte-Victoire would become the looming icon of his late work, so L’Estaque nurtured the artist, offering both a haven of familiarity and comfort, while at the same time serving as a powerful catalyst of artistic discovery and growth.
While he would remain in Provence for the rest of his life, Cézanne never returned to L’Estaque after 1885. Whether he felt he had exhausted its motifs or found the encroaching industrialization too prominent to ignore, the lessons that he took from his prolonged and intense scrutiny of the landscape there were key to the realization of his unique vision. “L’Estaque seems to have represented a primordial space into which Cézanne deliberately withdrew to engage in an intense and solitary struggle with painting and nature,” Véronique Serrano has written, “a struggle whose outcome radically altered the painted image and our perception of it for many years to come” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2006, p. 136).
A sort of god of painting
In the years following Cézanne’s death, his paintings from L’Estaque—with their cohesive formal structure of simplified volumes and subtly shifting planes—played a galvanizing role in the development of early twentieth-century art, particularly Cubism, the most fundamental re-imagining of pictorial form since the Renaissance. With its cubic network of buildings and flattened perspective, LEstaque aux toits rouges embodies Cézanne’s now famous instruction to “Treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone…” (quoted in ibid., p. 18).
Not long after Cézanne’s death, Georges Braque made a pilgrimage to L’Estaque. The light took his breath away. “The discovery of his work overturned everything,” he recalled. “I had to rethink everything. I wasn’t alone in suffering from shock. There was a battle to be fought against much of what we knew, what we had tended to respect, admire, or love. In Cézanne’s works we should see not only a new pictorial construction but also—too often forgotten—a new moral suggestion of space” (quoted in A. Danchev, op. cit., 2013, pp. 232-233). Braque’s proto-cubist L’Estaque works—as well as Picasso’s contemporaneous landscapes—enter into a direct dialogue with LEstaque aux toits rouges, the artists taking the lessons of Cézanne and moving them a step further as they reconceived the very concept of the painted image. To different ends, Henri Matisse, who had likewise experienced the south with the force of a revelation when he journeyed to Collioure in 1905, treasured the lessons of Cézanne, “a sort of god of painting,” as he once described (“Interview with Jacques Guenne,” 1925, in J. Flam, Matisse on Art, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1995, p. 80). Works from this southern sojourn, including Les toits de Collioure (The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) show the influence of Cézanne, as Matisse simplified the depiction of the landscape and reconstructed it with color alone.
Auguste Pellerin
Another individual who fell under the spell of Cézanne’s work was the first owner of LEstaque aux toits rouges, Auguste Pellerin (1852-1929). Pellerin made his fortune through the manufacture of margarine, which was distributed across Europe. This enabled him to begin collecting, first acquiring conventional objets dart and porcelain, as well as works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. It was not long before his taste changed, as he became drawn to some of the most radical art of his day. Starting with Impressionist works by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, and Alfred Sisley, he went on to amass an extraordinary collection of Edouard Manet, including Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère (The Courtauld Gallery, London), Nana (Kunsthalle, Hamburg), and Le jeuner dans l'atelier (Neue Pinakothek, Munich). Matisse painted his portrait twice; the first Pellerin rejected, the second, an intense, austere, radical rendering of the collector, he preferred (Auguste Pellerin II, 1917, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).
With an extraordinary prescience, Pellerin continued to evolve his collection, soon selling a large portion of his Impressionist paintings so that he could focus almost entirely on a new discovery: Cézanne. One of the first collectors of the artist, Pellerin quickly amassed arguably the greatest collection of his work ever known, numbering over a hundred paintings and watercolors. In his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine hung LEstaque aux toits rouges, along with still lifes, including the great Nature morte aux oignons, now in the Musée d’Orsay (FWN, no. 866), and The Museum of Modern Art's Nature morte au compotier (FWN, no. 780). Presiding over the staircase was the monumental Grandes baigneuses now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (FWN, no. 981), with portraits including Madame Cézanne en robe rouge (FWN, no. 493, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), as well as a number of the artist’s self-portraits.
LEstaque aux toits rouges remained in Pellerin’s collection until his death in 1929, at which point it passed to his son, Jean-Victor. Exhibited only once since its creation in the 1936 centenary retrospective of the artist held at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, this luminous landscape is shown here for only the second time in over a century, its golden Provençal light on display once more.

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