PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
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PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
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PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)

Dans la carrière de Bibémus

PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
Dans la carrière de Bibémus
oil on canvas
31 7⁄8 x 25 3⁄8 in. (80.7 x 64.6 cm.)
Painted circa 1895
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Madeleine de Galéa, Paris (by descent from the above, 1939).
Robert de Galéa, Paris (by descent from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
L. Venturi, "Sur les dernières années de Cézanne" in Minotaure, 1936, p. 36, no. 9 (illustrated, fig. 7).
L. Venturi, CézanneSon art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 231, no. 772 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 255; dated 1898-1900).
J. Rewald, "A propos du catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre de Paul Cézanne et de la chronologie de cette œuvre" in La Renaissance, March-April 1937, vol. 20, nos. 3-4, p. 55.
F. Novotny, Cézanne und das Ende der wissenschaftlichen Perspektive, Vienna, 1938, p. 198, no. 35 (titled Felspartie mit Staffagefigur and dated circa 1900).
A.C. Barnes and V. de Mazia, The Art of Cézanne, New York, 1939, p. 388, no. 168 (illustrated, p. 260; titled Quarry at Le Tholonet).
J. de Beucken, Un portrait de Cézanne, Paris, 1955, pp. 260-261.
R.W. Ratcliffe, Cézanne's Working Methods and Their Theoretical Background, Ph.D. Diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, 1961 (dated 1895-1899).
W. Rubin, ed., Cézanne: The Late Work, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1977, p. 240 (illustrated, pl. 32).
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, p. 479, no. 798 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 275).
K.A. Tuma, "Cézanne and Lucretius at the Red Rock" in Representations, spring 2002, vol. 78, no. 1, p. 76 (illustrated, fig. 3).
N.M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture, Chicago, 2003, p. 170 (illustrated, fig. 4.26).
A. Byrd, "The Brush Stroke as Catastrophe: Gasquet's 'Cézanne' and the Paintings of Bibémus Quarry" in RACAR, 2009, vol. 34, no. 1, p. 50 (illustrated, fig. 7).
J. Colrat, Cézanne: Joindre les mains errantes de la nature, Paris, 2013, p. 127 (illustrated, p. 129, fig. 37).
G.-P. and F. Dauberville, Paul Cézanne chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2020, p. 454, no. 115bis (illustrated, p. 455).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (, no. FWN 307 (illustrated in color).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. and Detroit, The Arts and Crafts Club, Paintings from the Ambroise Vollard Collection, November 1933-January 1934, no. 11 (titled La carrière du Tholonet and dated 1897).
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre), Cézanne, July 1935, no. 14 (titled La carrière du Tholonet and dated circa 1897).
New York, Bignou Gallery, Paul Cézanne, November-December 1936, no. 21 (titled La carrière du Tholonet and dated circa 1897).
Detroit Institute of Arts, Cézanne, January 1937.
Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Passions privées: Collections particulières d'art moderne et contemporain en France, December 1995-March 1996, p. 134, no. 2 (illustrated in color, p. 133; dated 1898-1900).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Préhistoire: Une énigme moderne, May-September 2019, p. 288 (illustrated in color, p. 25).
Princeton University Art Museum and London, Royal Academy of Arts, Cézanne, The Rock and Quarry Paintings, March-October 2020, p. 59, no. 13 (illustrated, p. 114; detail illustrated, p. 59, fig. 40; dated 1900-1904).

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Lot Essay

In November 1895, Paul Cézanne returned to a corner of Provence that he had known since his youth. In the rugged landscape to the east of his native Aix-en-Provence, the artist had spent much of his childhood enjoying halcyon days with his friend, Emile Zola, walking, climbing and swimming in this area. Returning on this occasion, Cézanne visited the Gorges des Infernets, the dam that had been built by Zola’s father, as well as the abandoned Bibémus quarry. With the majestic form of the Mont Sainte-Victoire rising behind, this quarry was set on a high plateau, positioned about three miles east of Aix, between the roads to Vauvenargues and Le Tholonet. On the search for new motifs, Cézanne was clearly struck by the cut, riven and eroded forms of the landscape there. In the mid-1890s, he rented a rustic stone cabin nearby and proceeded to paint the isolated, abandoned quarry.
Dans la carrière de Bibémus is one of this series of paintings and watercolors of the subjects that the artist executed predominantly in the mid-to-late 1890s. This work is especially rare within this series—it is the only canvas to include a human figure amid the dramatic rock formations of the quarry. Seated on a pile of debris built up from years of excavations, this figure is dwarfed by the ascendent, dramatically riven rock formations. Cézanne chose a particularly striking part of the quarry in this work, demonstrating how the ground had been opened up to reveal a chasm below, eroded over centuries both by mining as well as by nature itself. The vegetation provides a dramatic contrast with the golden, ochre colored limestone. While these plants would have been growing out of holes in the rock face, Cézanne’s signature, linear brushwork has made them appear as if they are floating, as he deftly flattened the sense of pictorial space that he created with the towering cliffs.
The Bibémus quarry offered Cézanne one of the most distinctive motifs of his oeuvre. It is believed that the Romans were the first to mine this area of limestone, when they were constructing the city today known as Aix. Bibémus—in Latin, “Let’s drink”—became in the medieval ages, a watering hole for hunters. From the seventeenth century onwards, it was an active quarry again. In 1885, ten years before Cézanne began painting there, the quarry was once again abandoned, its stone depleted.
As a result, Cézanne found a perfect motif: sheltered from the disruptive winds of the mistral, as well as from the blazing Provençal sun, it was extremely isolated and hard to access, allowing the artist the peace and privacy he desired at this time. In November 1895, Cézanne’s dealer, Ambroise Vollard, had held an exhibition of the artist’s work at his Paris gallery. As a result, Cézanne’s acclaim and renown had grown, bringing an increased public and critical interest. “All my life I’ve worked to be able to earn a living,” he complained, “but I thought that one could do good painting without attracting attention to one’s private life…the man must remain obscure” (quoted in zanne in Provence, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 194). Escaping to his beloved Provence, the Bibémus quarry enabled him to immerse himself in his work. From this time onwards, the artist would remain ensconced in the south.
In the 2020 exhibition, zanne: The Rock and Quarry Paintings, in which Dans la carrière de Bibémus was included, John Elderfield has vividly described this setting and the artistic inspiration it offered Cézanne. “The quarry’s spaces varied greatly—ranging from cloistered and intimate to open and colossal—and were defined by marred and glowing faces of cut limestone. The terrain was littered with extracted pieces of stone discarded for their inferior quality, whose eroded red clay covered and colored the ground. This red ground was lush with local vegetation, including Aleppo pine and holm oak trees and garigue, a group of low-growing plants and shrubs that thrive in limestone soil, including thyme and rosemary. The evergreen nature of these species underscores an important aspect of the site that would have appealed greatly to Cézanne: its chromatic stability. In this sunny land, Cézanne could be relatively certain that on each visit he would encounter nature in the same inspirational vivid palette: green leaves, ochre rocks, and blue sky” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2020, p. 104).
The other views of Bibémus differ in their scale and viewpoint. An expansive view of the Mont Sainte-Victoire features the radiantly colored structure of the quarry overlooked by the rising, gray-blue form of this famed landmark in one work (FWN, no. 315; The Baltimore Museum of Art). In stark contrast to this, Dans la carrière de Bibémus plunges the viewer into the very heart of this site. A sense of entrapment pervades, the sliver of sky and the vertiginously placed trees perched just beyond the precipice only heightening the intense verticality of the composition. Just to the left of center, the edge of the cliff face has dropped away, the vegetation seemingly falling from this gap in the rocks, a reminder of the instability and mutability of this landscape.
Above all, it is the inclusion of the small, faceless figure that impresses the pictorial drama of this scene. This figure has drawn varied interpretations. It has been suggested that Cézanne was making a reference to the quarrymen who would once have populated this now deserted site, or even perhaps including himself in the scene. As Nina Athanassoglou-Kallmyer suggests, this man adds a primordial, timeless element to the landscape, harking back to an age during which mankind occupied these roughly hewn caves in the landscape (op. cit., 2003, p. 171).
By the time Cézanne painted Dans la carrière de Bibémus he had honed and refined his “constructive” form of brushstroke, as this work masterfully shows. While the painting depicts this magnificent, part manmade, part natural structure, Cézanne has paradoxically imparted this impressive solidity and monumentality through the use of myriad delicate, refined brushstrokes built up in a patchwork of color. Here, strokes of multiple hues are like the strata of the rock, conveying both its density, as well as the play of light and shade over this creviced corner of southern France.
Hortense Cézanne, the artist’s wife, described how Cézanne employed these so-called taches of color in the depiction of the landscape. He “would start by discovering the geological foundations of landscape,” before, “he would halt and look at everything with widened eyes, ‘germinating’ with the countryside. The task before him was, first, to forget all that he had ever learned from science and, second, through these sciences to recapture the structure of the landscape as an emerging organism… Then he began to paint all parts of the landscape at the same time, using patches of color to surround his original charcoal sketch of the geological skeleton. The picture took on fullness and density; it grew in structure and balance; it came to maturity all at once. ‘The landscape thinks itself in me,’ he would say, ‘and I am its consciousness’” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2020, p. 23).
The luminosity of Dans la carrière de Bibémus recalls Cézanne’s description of his native land as “so vibrant, so austere, reflecting the light so that one screws up one’s eyes, and mesmerizing the receptacle of our sensations” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2006, p. 4). As Philip Conisbee has concluded, “Provence was Cézanne’s country: he was at home there as nowhere else. His sense of being grounded in so particular and so familiar a place, resonant with memory and emotion, caused him to concentrate much of his extraordinary pictorial intelligence there and to create from that landscape some of the most remarkable and original images in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art. There is a powerful sense of place in Cézanne's Provençal paintings—above all in the Pays d’Aix, around Aix-en-Provence. This was the country of his affective bond” (ibid., p. 1).

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