PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
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PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)

Vue du Château Colombier (recto); Etude d'arbres (verso)

PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
Vue du Château Colombier (recto); Etude d'arbres (verso)
watercolor and pencil on paper (recto); watercolor on paper (verso)
13 5/8 x 20 ¼ in. (34.6 x 51.3 cm.)
Executed in 1890 (recto); Painted circa 1890 (verso)
Paul Cézanne, fils, Paris.
Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the above, 1912).
Jean and Henry Dauberville, Paris (by descent from the above); sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 7 April 1976, lot 110.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owners.
L. Venturi, Cézanne: Son art–son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 254, no. 919 (recto illustrated, vol. II, pl. 285; dated circa 1888 and titled Eglise de village).
J. Rewald, Paul Cézanne: The Watercolors, A Catalogue Raisonné, Boston, 1983, pp. 168-170, nos. 345 and 352 (recto and verso illustrated; recto titled Le vieux château).
R. Hurtu, "Quand Cézanne vient peindre au pays de Courbet," Courbet/Cézanne: La vérité en peinture, exh. cat., Musée Gustave Courbet, Ornans, 2013, p. 112 (recto illustrated in color, p. 114, fig. 5).
G.-P. and F. Dauberville, Paul Cézanne chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2020, vol. II, p. 890, no. 306 (recto illustrated, p. 891, pl. 23; titled Le Château de Montgeroult ou Le vieux château).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (, nos. FWN 1254 and FWN 1277 (recto illustrated in color and verso illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Cézanne Aquarelliste, October-November 1956.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune-Dauberville, Cézanne: Aquarelliste et Peintre, May-July 1960, no. 10 (dated circa 1888 and titled Le vieux château).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Cent ans d'aquarelle: 1860-1960, June-July 1966, no. 14 (dated circa 1888 and titled Le château de Montgeroult).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Aquarelles de Cézanne, January–March 1971, no. 16 (dated 1899 and titled Le vieux château).
Yokohama Museum of Art and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Cézanne and Japan, September 1999-March 2000, p. 73, no. 43 (recto illustrated in color and verso illustrated; recto titled The Old Château).
Rome, Complesso dei Vittoriano, Cézanne: Il padre dei moderni, March-July 2002, p. 178 (recto illustrated in color, p. 179; recto titled Il vecchio castello).

Lot Essay

Cézanne’s Vue du Château Colombier is an exquisitely rendered, luminous watercolor that was executed in 1890. Watercolor was a medium that remained central to Cézanne throughout his career, offering him a variety of painterly effects that differed from oil in his continuous search to solve the problem of the depiction of reality. In his later years, Cézanne turned increasingly to this medium, establishing a delicate balance between drawing and soft touches of color. Through his use of watercolor, the artist discovered how to place colors side by side in order to modulate forms and suggest the shifting structure of planar elements in both landscape and still life, thus heralding his late style of oil painting. His techniques for depicting the volume and almost tangible physicality of the world around him in oils was wholly unsuited to the diaphanous quality of watercolors, and so he developed a system of contrast between the painted and unpainted areas. He was able to present the world in a different way, demonstrated in his restraint, leaving vast expanses of blank, unmarked paper, manipulating the space itself and making it act as a color in its own right.
In the present work, Cézanne depicts the entrance to a large countryside castle set against a mountain range. Though scholars have debated the exact location of the subject with thoughts ranging from Gruyères to Annecy and Pontoise, it has now been identified as the Château Colombier in Neuchâtel. Following the death of his father-in-law Claude-Antoine Fiquet in December 1889, Cézanne accompanied his grieving wife to settle his estate in Lantenne-Vertière in Franche-Comté. Despite a distaste for travel, the artist agreed to spend August through mid-November of 1890 with Hortense and their son Paul in Neuchatel, Bern, Fribourg, Vevey, Lausanne and Geneva. The trip was rejuvenating for Hortense, causing the artist to quip “my wife likes only Switzerland and lemonade” (quoted in D. Amory, Madame Hortense, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015, p. 27). Cézanne viewed this sojourn as an “unnecessary interruption to his practice” Dita Amory explained. “In a letter to Zola describing Cézanne’s ill-fated travels, the writer Paul Alexis blamed Hortense in mocking prose: 'He is furious with La Boule, who, after a year in Paris, last summer inflicted on him five months of Switzerland and hotels, where the only sympathetic presence he encountered was a Prussian'" (ibid.). Vue du Château Colombier is one of the few vestiges of the couple’s Swiss summer, their final extended trip together, and demonstrates the significance of the medium for Cézanne as a creative outlet.
For Cézanne, it was the process of painting that was in many cases more important than the final product. He scrutinized nature, methodically applying paint as he sought not to depict an exact likeness of the landscape before him, but to capture its essence, its underlying structure and the sensations that regarding it produced. “His method was remarkable,” the artist Emile Bernard wrote in 1904, describing Cézanne’s use of watercolor, “absolutely different from the usual process, and extremely complicated. He began on the shadow with a single patch, which he then overlapped with a second, then a third, until all those tints, hinging one to another like screens, not only colored the object but modelled its form” (quoted in J. Rewald, op. cit., p. 37). This considered approach, which saw Cézanne applying layers of paint which he left to dry before adding the next layer, allowed him to create, through a series of patches of color, a sense of volume. He ensured that each color worked in harmony with its neighbor. It is this sense of balance that characterizes Vue du Château Colombier and many of Cézanne’s other late watercolors. Color and line hang in perfect accord, surrounded by and integrating the white paper which, as John Rewald has described, in its “all-embracing emptiness intensifies the mysterious relationship between a few firm lines and a few subtle color accents” (ibid., p. 28).

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