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Inspiration From Afar - Notes on Visiting Cézanne's Studio
a fantastic moment to be inside Paul Cézanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence,
France, the place where so many famous paintings were created
in the last years of his life. There on a shelf against the soft
gray-green wall (called Cézanne's green) are all the pitchers,
pots, ceramic bowls, bottles and miscellaneous bric-a-brac used
in his well-known still-life paintings. In the corner on a peg,
his coat, hat and artist's smock hang just as he left them over
100 years ago. His battered and stained paint box and brushes
lie on a table nearby. There are several other tables, cabinets
and assorted chairs round about each piled with interesting objects
and cloths that might have been used in his paintings.
The sage green walls create a calming effect against
the light that enters from the tall windows that take up most
of the wall on one side (I assume this would be the north side,
as that is the most neutral light). There are trees and bushes
in the area beyond the window and that is why Cézanne painted
the walls green. They were originally white but the light reflected
too much of the green foliage and he did not like the effect.
So, he mixed up his own wall paint and created what has become
known as "Cézanne's green" (so we were informed by
the tour guide that day).
Barbara sketching Cézanne's mountain in Aix-en-Provence. Photo
by Françoise Nodet.
The floor of the studio is wide-planked hardwood,
which replaced the original flooring of red ceramic tiles. These
red, octagonal-shaped tiles are very typical of Provence and people
still have them in their homes to this day. We were told that
Cézanne did not like the red floor because it interfered with
his color comparisons; the wooden oak floor was more neutral in
is on the second floor of a house he had built as his studio,
so when the monumental series of "Bathers" were painted,
(the last and largest one unfinished at the time of his death
in 1906), they were so large that he could not move them down
the winding stairs to the ground floor. Consequently, a very tall
narrow opening was cut into the corner of the north wall. He could
then take the large works outside to check the colors against
the natural daylight and also be able to remove them from the
studio once they were complete. Against the west wall leans a
very tall wooden ladder which he used when painting this series.
During the time of Cézanne's
life, his studio was out in the countryside, in Les Lauves, which
he loved. It is now within the city of Aix-en-Provence in a residential
neighborhood. Not far from there, about a 15-minute walk, is a
place called The Artist's Ground (now within the city) which is
natural hill slope with trees, bushes and limestone rock. The
day we visited his studio we decided to have our picnic lunch
there to avoid the crowds and traffic of downtown Aix. What a
surprise to turn around as we neared the top of the hill to see
the view overlooking the countryside - there was the mountain,
Mt. Sainte Victoire that Cézanne painted over and over
again, at least 86 times. A fantastic sight! As my husband, Tom,
Françoise (my French friend from KU art school days) and I ate
our delicious lunch of fresh baguette, cheese, chorizo, tomatoes
and apricots, I sketched the mountain. How could I not?
Mt. Sainte Victoire, Aix-en-Provence
Cézanne's Mountain - Mt. Sainte Victoire Sketch by Barbara Solberg.
Mt. Sainte Victoire by Paul Cézanne.
Cézanne's paintings were among
my first artistic inspirations. I first saw his still-life paintings
and the Bathers Series at the Courtauld Gallery in London many
years ago when I was an aspiring young artist living in England.
I have always admired his paintings the most, of all the many
artists I have studied. My life-long passion for landscape and
still-life painting perhaps began with viewing his work. I feel
in some ways I have come full circle to view the studio and landscape
in which Cézanne lived and worked. For more details about Cézanne's
studio, see Marvellous
Travel Notes from the Isles of the British Isles, Summer 2009. Read
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