A couple of years ago, I made an extremely short visit to the south of France, which basically left me with one day to do something special. A friend threw me into his car and said that there was a Cezanne show in Aix-en-Provence and he was taking me.
As we headed west from Nice just as we passed La Napoule the landscape turned from white to red. The colors along the coast are very specific to the locations: the ultramarine blue of the water around Antibe, the white hills behind Nice, the Prussian blue of the water near St. Tropez and the deep rust red of the landscape along the coast. As you head inland toward Aix, the red modulates to ochre and rust dotted with the deep green of the pines.
Seeing Cezanne in Aix gives you the double whammy of seeing his work and then immediately observing the landscape that inspired it.
After the exhibition we searched for Cezanne’s studio, which had been restored and opened to the public through the efforts of James Lord and John Rewald. I am a big fan of both Lord, who wrote an extraordinary biography of Giacometti and Rewald, whose texts on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are must reads for anyone interested in the subject.
When we arrived at the studio, despite the fact that it was supposed to be open that day, it was CLOSED! They were having a special viewing of it for the Smithsonian — damn Yankees!! And was closed to the public. My friend was undeterred and told them in no uncertain terms that I was an artist (something that matters to the French) and I had come all the way from America just to see the studio. Whatever else he said, I don’t know, but moments later I was ushered into the studio.
The studio was painted a dark gray (darker than it appears in the photos) made by mixing peach black, yellow ocher and little white. I know. I asked. There was a small window facing south and a large one to the north. On the back wall were items Cezanne used in his still lifes: a skull, a plaster of a putti, some vases, bowls and apples. There was also his small table that frequently appears in his still lifes.
In the north wall was a tall slender “door”, perhaps a foot wide, where he would slide his large canvases in and out of the studio. He built it to accommodate his huge paintings of bathers.
Through the windows you could see the large pine trees, which are often two feet in diameter, that are typical of the region. They are the trees that appear in the bathing paintings.
In the corner of the room on a coat rack were his hat and coat, just as he had left them. What I would have given to put on his coat and hat.
If you go:
Books, books, and more books:
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