Paul CEZANNE (1839-1906)
Chronology : 1880-1889 1887 1888 1890-1899 1890 1892 1903 1904
1885 Colors over Marseille
2015 SOLD for £ 13.5M including premium
L'Estaque is one of his first choices, prompted by memories from his youth when his mother had rented a cottage for summer holidays. From the top of the hill and beyond the houses, the bay and the islands of Marseille offer a vast and sumptuous panorama.
From 1883 to 1886, Cézanne rented a small house in L'Estaque. He works outdoor like the Impressionists, but his synthetic and cloisonné analysis of shapes and colors are already paving the way for modern art and cubism.
On February 4 in London, Christie's sells a view of L'Estaque probably painted in the spring or early summer of 1885. This oil on canvas 73 x 60 cm is estimated £ 8M, lot 8. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
For such a panoramic theme, Cézanne has the audacity to try a vertical format. The trees that frame the view while masking the lateral coasts provide the same invitation to the infinite as the future colored rectangles by Mondrian.
At the end of the same decade, Monet himself will fail where Cézanne had already succeeded, in front of light and wind.
1886-1887 The Tilted Plate
2019 SOLD for £ 21M including premium
Painting is the only possible medium for his interpretation of life, because it allows color harmonies. The laws of the perspective itself are not untouchable. Impressionism does not go far enough.
Emile Zola has certainly appreciated the depth of Cézanne's theories and his difficulties in sharing them. In his novel L'Oeuvre published in 1886, he stages a misunderstood painter whose idealistic passion leads to failure. A later letter from Cézanne to Zola, recently found, contradicts the legend of their breakup. Cézanne was obviously too soaked in his research to be indignant at the concern of his college friend.
On February 27 in London, Christie's sells as lot 6 a still life of fruit, oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm painted in the mid 1880s. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The theme is modest and the composition is minimalist. On a rustic table without any ornament in a slightly plunging perspective, a plate contains five peaches and a pear. Another pear is placed to the right of the plate. The subtle variety of fruit color is not however the main subject of this experiment.
If the plate is placed flat on the table, its perfect circle is impossible. It is therefore inclined, at the limit of the imbalance of the fruit pyramid. Cézanne knew that realism does not exist in painting : nature is too complex to be imitated and the surface of the canvas does not allow an illusion of real space.
A probably later work gives the key to the enigma : now viewed in profile, the plate is actually tilted. This 28 x 40 cm oil on canvas was sold for $ 8.1M by Sotheby's on November 14, 2017, lot 27.
Many years later, Matisse tries an axiom according to which Cézanne was too perfectionist to make a mistake. He thus discovers the de-construction of perspective in the most seemingly simplistic still lifes by Cézanne, an artist too far ahead of his own time.
Highlights from the most important single owner collection of Impressionist and Modern art offered for sale in London for a decade, featuring works by #Monet, #Renoir, #Cézanne, #VanGogh, #Bonnard, #Matisse and more... https://t.co/PZ3OpFMU7M pic.twitter.com/dhAJXW9NF5— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) November 27, 2018
1888-1890 The Movements of the Tablecloth
2019 SOLD for $ 59M including premium
A still life from that phase was sold for £ 21M including premium by Christie's on February 27, 2019. The composition seems naively simple until we perceive the imbalance of the plate. The observer awaits the tilting that will roll the fruit onto the table.
The artist will then increase the complexity. Bouilloire et fruits, oil on canvas 49 x 60 cm painted between 1888 and 1890, offers the dynamic contrast between a heavy pot steadily placed on the table and the fruits in a precarious balance in the folds of the tablecloth.
Cézanne reworked each painting tirelessly, seeking a perfection that existed only in his own imagination. Sometimes he stops before it is finished. The handle and the body of the kettle are disjointed. A lemon or an apple that did not suit the artist left some traces without disappearing completely.
It does not matter: the variety of forms and the mingling of the colors that constitute the textures are already satisfactory. Cézanne accepts to sell this unfinished work to a collector.
Bouilloire et fruits was sold for £ 18M including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 1999. This painting is listed as lot 18A by Christie's in New York on May 13. The press release of March 27 announces an estimate in the region of $ 40M. Please watch the very short video shared by the auction house.
Painted in 1893 with a similar inspiration, Rideau, cruchon et compotier, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm, was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on May 10, 1999. The fruit bowl is not placed on the table.
1889-1890 Les Pommes
2013 SOLD for $ 42M by Sotheby's
Cézanne plays with apples like an infant with cubes. Fruits are grouped within small uneven piles in which their variety of colors brings an additional appeal. Sometimes a group is interrupted by the frame as if the row of fruit was unlimited.
If we consider that the real subject is the painting itself and not the appealing fruit, Cézanne's apples anticipate abstract art. His still life puzzles the viewer by its original composition, as if it tried to tell a story or to evoke a feeling, like Kandinsky and Miro later. Each individual element is however realistic like an image by Chardin.
The group of apples for sale at Sotheby's on May 7, 2013 is both simple and bold. This oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm painted in 1889-1890 was sold for $ 42M from a lower estimate of $ 25M, lot 7. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Sold for $ 60M including premium at Sotheby's on May 10, 1999, another composition, 60 x 73 cm, painted four years later is more ambitious. The folds of the white tablecloth generate a complex interplay of fruit, the pitcher is the referee and the curtain states that the still lifes of Cézanne are indeed dramas.
1888-1890 Pommes et Poires
2021 SOLD for $ 20M by Sotheby's
This oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm is by its composition a twin painting of Les Pommes, a still life of same format and period sold for $ 42M by Sotheby's on May 7, 2013, also with a lower estimate of $ 25M.
Both arrangements are made on the top of the same chest, the same or very similar as the furniture shown in Cézanne's still life in Paris more than ten years earlier. The replacement by pears of a group of apples may result from a desire to vary the colors.
The major difference is that Pommes et Poires occupy a delimited space while in Les Pommes two apples on the right edge call for an unlimited raw of fruit, anticipating the color escapes of Mondrian.
No timeline can be defined within the middle format series of still lifes of the later 1880s. In this time of prevailing experimentation, it is indeed probable that Les Pommes and Pommes et Poires were painted in parallel.
#AuctionUpdate: A rare example of Paul Cézanne’s quintessential still lifes of this caliber remaining in private hands, 'Nature morte: pommes et poires' achieves $20 million. The work last sold at auction at Sotheby’s NY for $8.7 million in November 2003. pic.twitter.com/S5lGB94w7Z— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 13, 2021
1892 Studies for the Card Players
2015 SOLD for $ 21M including premium
He works as in the old days by executing preparatory sketches, with however a detail that changes everything. Nature can not be copied by the painter. The colors and contours express the atmosphere without requiring a preliminary drawing. This simple observation is one of the foundations of the figurative art of the following century.
In his exile away from the bourgeois society, Cézanne watches the peasants. They have differences : each one has his physical look, his straight or vaulted attitude, his behavior, his hat. The artist observes them individually before bringing them together in the group. The Joueurs de cartes are the deepest attempt by Cézanne to express, not reality, but life.
Cézanne made several preparatory watercolors for the Joueurs de cartes. Two of them, each showing one of the major players, have such a similar format and technique that they appear as pendants, certainly as the final study before one of the oils. They were made in 1892 or shortly after.
The watercolor of the smaller man, 47 x 30 cm, was sold for $ 19M including premium by Christie's on 1 May 2012. The character was identified : a gardener who worked for the artist.
The watercolor of the taller fellow, 48 x 32 cm, is estimated $ 18M for sale by Christie's in New York on November 9, lot 7A. A portrait of Père Alexandre was made by the same artist on the back of this paper.
The image below is limited to the upper part of the picture.
1892 Only One Card Player
2012 SOLD 19 M$ including premium
Yet the study of the implementation of this theme by Cézanne is an uninterrupted series of questionmarks.
The artist is somehow isolated from the world at his home in Aix-en-Provence. He is an experimenter of the colors. Shaded, they form flat areas that come together to build the figurative scene. He painted the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, and self-portraits, and still lifes, and bathers.
Around 1890, he became interested in card players. He observes these humble men, a worker or a gardener of his house. They do not cheat, do not joke, they smoke and drink peacefully. They no longer need to understand the universe: they are totally focused on their unuseful game.
Cézanne selected that theme clearly for his own use, perhaps to counter his mystical doubts of an aging man in relatively poor health. We do not know the exact date of the five paintings, nor their precedence.
Made around 1892, a watercolor, 47 x 30 cm, is estimated $ 15M, for sale by Christie's in New York on May 1. This preliminary study shows the man who will be sitting on the right in the least animated three paintings, those showing only two players, which probably are the final versions.
POST SALE COMMENT
Great price for this watercolor : $ 19M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's.
1893-1894 Rideau, cruchon et compotier by Cézanne
1999 SOLD 60 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Cézanne no longer needs his art to earn a living and does not date his works. The chronology of his still lifes can only be based on the evolution of their complexity. His vision weakened by a diabetes identified in 1890 may have prompted him to seek these new solutions.
He tirelessly changes the position of the same objects, with the same varieties of fruit, seeking the extreme limit of balance. It is only by a very careful inspection that the observer discovers that a dish is not placed on the top of the table but bent over a hidden support.
The crumpled white tablecloth becomes an essential element of the composition, bringing the impression of the imminent fall of the objects and fruits that are placed on it. The arrangements are becoming increasingly complex.
In 1893 or 1894, Cézanne painted two similar compositions, with the same jug and stemcup on the same table, and the same curtain.
Pichet et fruits sur une table is less dramatic because it does not include the tablecloth. The visual confusion is brought by the cup whose real position in relation to the table is not discernible because it is half hidden by the pitcher. This oil on paper 42 x 72 cm was sold for £ 11.8M including premium by Sotheby's on February 3, 2010.
Rideau, cruchon et compotier dangerously distributes the fruits in the folds of the tablecloth. The cup, with a spectacular stacking of fruit, is here hidden behind a rise in the tablecloth. All this will fall to the ground in a few moments. This oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on May 10, 1999. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
La Corbeille de pommes, oil on canvas 65 x 80 cm kept at the Art Institute of Chicago, illustrates similar conceptions : the lower part of the cup is hidden by some fruit. Here the very tilted position of the basket is partially explained by a thick wedge whose usefulness in real life is questionable.
1893-1894 Cézanne's Table
2010 SOLD 11.8 M£ including premium
"His subjects are humble. The line does not matter, because the composition and color make objects so present in his art. He was not the first to paint still lifes, of course. But his genius is to remove all the symbols in favour of a simple sentimental or sensual search. And he succeeds because he is a great artist. In the same idea, the environment disappears: the background is flat, not located. Only remains the subject."
Hereabove I discussed Chardin. Cézanne's painting for sale by Sotheby's in London on February 3, lot 5, deserves similar comments. This oil on paper laid down on panel, 41 x 72 cm, painted in 1893 or 1894, shows a pitcher and fruit on a bare table. Some of these fruits are on a saucer. On the left, a curtain caresses the table.
Cézanne was a master of perspective, better than Chardin on this point. He had great care to distribute his subject on the table before composing the painting. This is why his projection of a space composition on the surface of the paper anticipates the work of the Cubists, who are known to have seen him as a precursor.
This painting, which was formerly part of the Barnes collection, is estimated £ 10 million.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting has been sold around the expected price. Result: £ 11.8 million including premium. Note that this price is remarkable for a work on paper.
1902-1906 Breakfast at Les Lauves
2020 SOLD for $ 28.7M including premium
He is a perfectionist of geometric projection. The paper is flat but the fruits are volumes that the light reaches through their middle. Breakfast utensils, such as a teapot or sugar bowl, are also convex.
The work begins with a drawing of the outlines on a sheet of paper. Each surface is filled with colors that reflect the lighting zones without overlapping. This phase should be intermediate but Cézanne is never satisfied : the finished product, which is oil on canvas, becomes scarce. His rare visitors, like Emile Bernard, are disconcerted by the complexity and slowness of his creative process. His reinterpretation of nature is so innovative that he creates modern art.
On October 6 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 13 a still life in watercolor and gouache made in the largest paper size used by the artist, 48 x 62 cm. The focal point is the green melon, with its bright color and its central position in the image. It is however placed on the other side of the table, partially hidden by the milk jug and the sugar bowl. The press release of August 26 announces an estimate in the region of $ 25M.
A 32 x 48 cm watercolor from the same period was sold for $ 25.5M including premium by Sotheby's on May 8, 2007 from a lower estimate of $ 14M. This close-up still life is focused in similar conditions on a green melon behind a goblet.
'The greatest Cézanne watercolour to be offered in decades' — #Cézanne's Nature morte avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier from the collection of Edsel & Eleanor Ford House will be offered in the 20th Century Evening Sale on 6 October in New York: https://t.co/gJGcA3KMtr pic.twitter.com/Ss3mrhbAH9— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) August 30, 2020