PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
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PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)

La Montagne Sainte-Victoire

PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (65.2 x 81.2 cm.)
Painted in 1888-1890
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Auguste Pellerin, Paris (acquired from the above).
Jean-Victor Pellerin, Paris (by descent from the above, 1929).
Georges A. Embiricos, Lausanne.
Heinz Berggruen, Paris (acquired from the above, 1982); sale, Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, 7 May 2001, lot 5.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
L. Venturi, Cezanne: Son art—son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 207, no. 662 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 212; dated 1890-1894).
J. Rewald, Paul Cezanne, London, 1939 (illustrated, fig. 66; dated circa 1890).
E. Loran, Cezanne’s Compositions, Berkeley, 1943, p. 100 (illustrated, pl. XXIII).
J. Rewald, Paul Cezanne: A Biography, New York, 1948 (illustrated, fig. 86; dated circa 1890).
J. Rewald, Cezanne, London, 1950 (illustrated, fig. 66).
R.W. Ratcliffe, Cezanne's Working Methods and Their Theoretical Background, Ph.D. diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, 1961 (dated 1889).
S. Orienti, The Complete Paintings of Cezanne, New York, 1970, p. 120, no. 751 (illustrated; dated 1890-1894).
G.A. Embiricos, “Cezanne et la répétition” in Connaissance des Arts, May 1978, no. 315, pp. 69-70 (illustrated in color, p. 69; dated 1890-1894).
J. Rewald, Cezanne: A Biography, New York, 1986, p. 276 (illustrated in color, p. 177).
J.-J. Lévêque, La vie et l’œuvre de Paul Cezanne, Courbevoie, 1988, p. 209 (illustrated in color).
“Gateway to Modernity: Paul Cezanne in Swiss Collections” in Du, September 1989, no. 9, p. 57 (illustrated in color).
H. Düchting, Paul Cezanne: Natur wird Kunst, Cologne, 1989, p. 210 (illustrated in color; dated 1890-1894).
B. Ely, “La plus haute sommité du department” in Sainte-Victoire Cezanne, exh. cat., Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, 1990, p. 147 (illustrated in color, fig. 107).
S. Moore, Framing Modern Masters: A Conversation with Heinz Berggruen, London, 1991, pp. 17 and 76-77, no. 19 (illustrated).
C. de Lartigue, Les paysages de Paul Cezanne, Lyon, 1995, p. 113 (illustrated in color; detail illustrated in color, p. 115; dated circa 1890).
P. Sollers, Le paradis de Cezanne, Paris, 1995, pp. 118-119 (illustrated).
D. Coutagne et al., Les sites Cezanniens du Pays d’Aix: Hommage à John Rewald, Paris, 1996, p. 69.
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cezanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, pp. 414-415, no. 631 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 213).
P. Smith, Interpreting Cezanne, London, 1996, p. 43 (illustrated, fig. 34).
B. Ely, “Gardanne, Montbriand and Bellevue” in Cezanne in Provence, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 157 (illustrated in color, p. 156, fig. 5).
P. Machotka, Cezanne: The Eye and the Mind, Marseille, 2008, p. 159 (illustrated, fig. 235).
D. Coutagne, “P. Cezanne, sur la colline de la Constance-Valcros" in SPLA Pays d’Aix Territoires, June 2015, p. 78 (illustrated).
D. Bonfort, ed., Dans les pas de P. Cezanne, Aix-en-Provence, 2016, p. 30 (illustrated).
Cezanne, Jas de Bouffan: Art et histoire, Lyon, 2019, p. 86 (illustrated in color, fig. 71).
G.-P. and F. Dauberville, Paul Cezanne chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2020, p. 448, no. 113 (illustrated, p. 449).
P. Cezanne, Paul Cezanne dépeint par ses contemporains, Lyon, 2021 (illustrated, fig. 56).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (, no. FWN 258 (illustrated in color).
Geneva, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Berggruen Collection, June-October 1988, p. 32, no. 6 (illustrated in color, p. 33).
London, The National Gallery, Van Gogh to Picasso: The Berggruen Collection at The National Gallery, 1991-1998 (on extended loan).
Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sammlung Berggruen, 1998-2000 (on extended loan).
Berlin, Sammlung Berggruen, Cezanne in Berlin 28 Werke aus den Staatlichen Museen und aus Privatbesitz, October 2000-January 2001, pp. 55-58, no. 14 (illustrated in color, pp. 56-57).
Seattle, Experience Music Project, DoubleTake: From Monet to Lichtenstein, April 2006-January 2007, p. 13 (illustrated in color, p. 12).
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Cezanne, Picasso, Mondriaan: In nieuw perspectief, October 2009-January 2010, no. 35 (illustrated).
Oregon, Portland Art Museum; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; New Orleans Museum of Art and Seattle Art Museum, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, October 2015-May 2017, pp. 26-27 and 78, no. 16 (illustrated in color, p. 79; detail illustrated in color, pp. 80-81; detail illustrated in color again, p. 27, fig. 5).
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

The Mont Sainte-Victoire looms large over the Provençal landscape, dominating both the history of this corner of southern France as well as the story of modern art. Paul Cezanne’s name is indelibly wedded to this natural landmark. Over the course of the 1880s, working in the countryside around his native Aix-en-Provence, he painted an inaugural, magisterial sequence of landscapes that depict the sweeping panorama over the Arc valley, stretching east towards the Mont Sainte-Victoire in the distance. These now-iconic vistas constitute Cezanne’s first sustained pictorial confrontation with the towering mountain. More than a compelling motif to which he returned again and again in his dogged pursuit of artistic enlightenment, Sainte-Victoire became part of Cezanne’s identity, a veritable talisman of his innermost self.
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, painted in 1888-1890, dates towards the end of the group, when the artist had moved away from the more classically constructed compositions of the early 1880s to instead depict a more radical and abstracted conception of the landscape. Presenting an unimpeded view of the mountain, this work is filled with a majestic visual drama, heightened by Cezanne’s revolutionary use of color. Myriad layers of strokes vibrate across the canvas, creating the perspective and compositional depth of the scene. One of the most vividly colored works of this series, this painting exemplifies the artist’s meticulous observation and masterful technique. Formerly in the esteemed collections of Auguste Pellerin, George Embiricos, and Heinz Berggruen, the present work is one of only two of this group to remain in private hands. Other paintings of the series are housed in museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, The Courtauld Gallery, London, and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Cezanne returned to the Jas de Bouffan, his family’s estate in Aix, in October 1881 after an extended stay of two and a half years in the north, at Melun, Paris, Pontoise, and Medan. During this period, he had increasingly sought to transmute the vagaries of the natural world into the forms of an ideal, abstract order—“to make of Impressionism something solid and enduring,” he claimed, “like the art in museums.” He fully realized this lofty goal upon his retreat to Aix—to the arcadian countryside of his youth, resonant with memory and emotion—where the grand, open vistas, imbued with the timeless spirit of Nicolas Poussin, lent themselves admirably to the fulfillment of his purpose. “The fruit of Cezanne’s Parisian experiences, both visual and technical, appears in the pictures he painted on his return to the Jas de Bouffan; they constitute a virtual rediscovery of Provence,” John Rewald wrote. “He sees it now in terms of colored planes organized in a firm, almost architectural construction, irreconcilable with the doctrines of Impressionism” (Cezanne Landscapes, Paris, 1958, n.p.).
The 1880s was a decade of great emotional turbulence for Cezanne—a disastrous affair with an unidentified woman, the painful break with his childhood friend, the author, Emile Zola, following the publication of L’Oeuvre, his abrupt decision to wed his long-time companion Hortense, and, in 1886, the death of his father. Throughout, the landscape around Aix provided him with a haven in which he could develop his art in near-total seclusion. Despite the upheavals of his personal life, his painting at this time became evermore steady and monumental, as he moved to embody the classical ideals of permanence and immutability for which he was striving. It was during this time that Cezanne began what would be a lifelong confrontation with the Mont Saint-Victoire. The abiding unity and certitude that characterize the present painting reflect the deep love and knowledge of his native countryside that Cezanne derived from his youthful exploits there.
Cezanne painted the present canvas from a hilltop in the Bellevue estate. One of the largest properties in this area to the east of Aix, it encompassed a bastide together with farm buildings, stables, and a former chapel, accompanied by land that included fields, olive trees and vineyards. Bellevue bordered the manor house at Montbriand, a farm on the outskirts of Aix that Cezanne’s sister, Rose, and her husband Maxime Conil, had purchased in 1884. The property, which was an easy walk from the Jas de Bouffan, provided the artist with numerous landscape motifs throughout the 1880s—most importantly the panoramic, unimpeded view of the stately Sainte-Victoire. Bruno Ely has suggested a specific viewpoint for the present work, “A few dozen meters away from the Bellevue house, near the Valcros road, was almost certainly the spot selected by Cezanne for the present work” (“Gardanne, Montbriand, and Bellevue,” in Cezanne in Provence, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 156). Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who visited Cezanne in Aix on a number of occasions, painted the same viewpoint in his Mont Sainte-Victoire of 1888-1889 (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven). The olive grove that serves as the foreground of his canvas has been eliminated by Cezanne, a device that allowed him to create the stage-like band of green that leads the eye into the ascending panorama that unfolds beyond.
“Wherever Cezanne went in the serenely beautiful countryside around Aix,” Rewald has written, “he could be sure of finding grandiose vistas, brilliant colors, and picturesque forms. From a hilltop, for example, he could look over an immense valley to the conical summit of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. In such a landscape, the dominant forms are so massive that the details are reduced to insignificance, and the large planes and clearly-traced lines…lent themselves admirably to the fulfilment of Cezanne’s purpose, which was ‘to paint like Poussin, but from nature’” (quoted in Cezanne, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1996, pp. 255-259).
Rather than portraying Mont Sainte-Victoire in the distance, framed or partially obscured by a single pine tree, as in the earlier works of the series (FWN, nos. 184-185, 234-235), in La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, Cezanne opted for a more dramatic and daring composition, picturing the great landmark centrally and from a closer viewpoint. As the decade unfolded, Cezanne gradually abandoned the classical repoussoir devices, as well as the specific natural and manmade elements of the Arc valley that he had included at the beginning of the decade—the viaduct, diagonal road, and the houses that dotted the valley—to instead allow the mountain its full dominance.
In removing recognizable details, Cezanne moved a step forward in his desire to fully translate the sensation of standing within nature. “For a long time I was quite unable to paint Sainte-Victoire,” he later reminisced. “I had no idea how to go about it because, like others who just look at it, I imagined the shadow to be concave, whereas in fact it is convex, it disperses outward from the center. Instead of accumulating, it evaporates, becomes fluid, bluish, participating in the movements of the surrounding air” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2006, p. 160).
As Cezanne described, in the present work, he has rendered the mountain in a palette of soft blues, as well as lilacs and pinks, lending this monumental landmark a sense of ephemeral lightness that perfectly captures the effect of visual perception, rather than the weighty reality, of this mass. Horizontal planes impart perspective, as areas of verdant green give way to rich ochres and terracotta, before the cooler toned mountain rises, no less dominant despite its recessive position amid the landscape. “Nature isn’t at the surface; it’s in depth,” Cezanne once explained. “Colors are the expression on this surface, of this depth. They rise up out of the earth’s roots: they are its life, the life of ideas” (quoted in N. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cezanne and Provence: The Painter and his Culture, Chicago, 2003, p. 180).
Tracing the outline of the mountain top, Cezanne has endowed this structure with a solidity and monumentality that belies the flatness of the hovering strokes that define its form. The sky too appears heavy, a massive realm that meets the mountain as its equal. A single stroke of color hangs just above the mountain’s peak, the outline of a cloud that seems electrified by the proximity of the mountain. “Those blocks were made of fire,” Cezanne was said to have remarked to Joachim Gasquet of the mountain. “There’s still some fire in them… note how, when large clouds pass overhead, their shadows quiver on the rocks as if burnt up, instantly consumed by a mouth of fire” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1996, p. 468).
Cezanne’s transformation of the observed motif into an abstract formal structure—an image of nature held in dynamic equilibrium—is echoed in the novel way that he applied paint to canvas. In place of the spontaneous, broken touch that the Impressionists used to signify a fleeting moment en plein air, Cezanne here laid down pigment in a tapestry-like weave of brushstrokes that flattens the image and unifies the composition. Each stroke was carefully deliberated over and meticulously applied. The result is that these flecks, patches, and shimmers of color quiver across the surface of the canvas, simultaneously bringing this vista to life, while at the same time, declaring the inherent falsity of the painted image. “Cezanne’s sensations of the Sainte-Victoire are endlessly astonishing,” Alex Danchev described. “The strokes become shreds; appearance is transmuted into apparition” (Cezanne: A Life, London, 2013, p. 343).
Though this series of 1880s views of the Mont Sainte-Victoire was painted from the same general vantage points near Montbriand and Bellevue, the present work is unique in its close up viewpoint. The first four views feature the mountain in the distance, the valley offering a broad panorama of this scene, which is either intersected or framed by a solitary pine tree. The latter four works present the landmark more prominently, though never with as much prominence as in the present work. After he painted the Barnes Foundation’s Mont Sainte-Victoire in 1892-1895 (FWN, no. 296), Cezanne, seeking fresh inspiration, drew closer to the base of the mountain and painted it rising up from the isolated grounds around Bibémus quarry and the Château Noir.
The Mont Sainte-Victoire continued to captivate the artist for the rest of his life. Between 1902 and his death in 1906, he produced a second sequence of Sainte-Victoire paintings from the crest of Les Lauves, the hill north of Aix where he built his last studio. In these late works, the mountain has been detached from the terra firma of the valley and abstracted into an icon, floating ethereally in the southern light, pointing toward the heavens. “Look at the Sainte-Victoire there,” Joachim Gasquet remembered Cezanne exclaiming, his fervent adoration and deep emotional connection with this landmark clear, “What élan, what imperious thirst for the sun, and what melancholy in the evening, when all that weight sinks back!” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1996, p. 468).
Created with a powerful emotional intensity, the Sainte-Victoire landscapes demonstrate how Cezanne negotiated the irrefutable facts of reality, and the seemingly illusory, ephemeral nature of our perception of it. The mountain exists as solid, unyielding mass, yet appears from afar as a constantly shifting screen of light and color. Cezanne’s great achievement was to distil these contradictory aspects of vision into pictorial form, capturing the transience and permanence of the world through harmonious strokes of color upon canvas. In so doing, he fundamentally altered the possibilities of painting. “All that we see dissipates and disappears, does it not?” Cézanne asked. “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?” (quoted in A. Danchev, Cézanne: A Life, London, 2013, p. 339).
The first owner of La Montagne Sainte-Victoire was the legendary collector 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 d’art 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). Henri 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, Centre 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: Cezanne. 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 La Montagne Sainte-Victoire. 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.
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire remained in Pellerin’s collection until his death in 1929, at which point it passed to his son, Jean-Victor. Subsequently the painting was acquired by the Greek shipping magnate, George Embiricos, whose collection also included works by Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon, among others. It moved from one notable collection to another when it was purchased by one of the leading dealers and collectors of the twentieth century, Heinz Berggruen, before being acquired by Paul G. Allen in 2001.

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