Paul Cezanne – Mont Sainte-Victoire from the Large Pine
(1885-87) Oil on canvas.
This painting is a closed composition due to the tree trunks and the branches framing the view. There are underlying triangular shapes throughout, between the road and the tree on the left; the road and the viaduct; and the mountain shape. The visible shapes are also geometric, with organic the fields broken into geometric planes. There is repetition of line: in the parallel lines in the fields echoing the road; and the branches that follow the contour of the mountain – and of shape: in the cubic house shapes sprinkled throughout the composition.
The colours are basically analogous (yellow and green), slightly descriptive, bold and intense, forming a pattern of warm and cool colours across the landscape, creating a fragmented image. The eye is led along the road to stop at the dominant building on the left, then jumps across the patchwork to the viaduct, before moving up to the mountain itself. It has implied texture in some areas, a high view point, compressed space (the line along the edge of the mountain is as strong as the lines in the foreground), with multiple areas of dominance,despite the initial focussing of the eye the the more flatly painted centre of the canvas.
The artistic revolutionary characteristics of this work are the use of bold pure colour, painted onto a white canvas, with the brushstrokes showing clearly, and contour lines evident. It was painted out of doors, spontaneously, with the scene of no religious or moral significance a happy landscape painted for its own beauty. A visually stimulating painting, using broken colour technique in some areas, and painted with square brushes.
The characteristics which make it a recognizable Cezanne are mainly the way the image has been broken into geometric planes, and shapes, and the way in which the artist used warm and cool colours in juxtaposition to create a sensation of movement or undulation by their advancing and receding nature. He used warm intense orange, cooling it as he moved progressively higher on the picture plane. The mountain not only has cool blues and mauves, but also touches of this cooler orange – less intense – giving the visual perception of distance by its cool quality.
Also the subject matter is one of Cezanne’s favourites – Mont Sainte-Victoire near his brother-in-law’s home south-west of Aix. Paul Cezanne is reported as saying about this location:
“The blue smell of the pines must be married to the green smell of the plains which are refreshed every morning with the smell of stones and the perfume of distant marble from Sainte-Victoire.”
By his use of textural brushstrokes around the outer edge of the painting, Cezanne created a focal area of the untidy jumble of fields, and sheds, which he painted with a flatter technique that still showed planes or slabs of colour laid next to each other. His later works show an even greater reduction of the image into a pattern of planes, than this work portrays.
1902 -04 Mont Sainte-Victoire 1904-06
NB: The thing that is interesting about this analytical evaluation of these 19th & 20th century artists and their works, is the realisation of how much today’s artists owe them for breaking down the barriers that controlled all art prior to their artistic revolution. It does, of course, also make us look at other artworks differently, with more awareness of the underlying structures and techniques used, enhancing our appreciation of them
Jud House 5/09/2016
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