Annecy lakeshore, 1896

Thursday, June 16th 2022

by Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne (Aix-en-Provence, 1839-1906),

Bord du lac d’Annecy, 1896


Height 9,3" Length 18,7".

- Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
- Martin Fabiani, Paris.
- Mouradian et Valloton, Paris.
- collection of Mr. and Mrs K., Touraine.
- "Cézanne, Renoir, Rouault", 1963, Isetan Museum, Tokyo, catalog nr. 14.
- "Cézanne", 1971, Hyogo Modern Art Museum (Kobé, Japan), nr. 21.

- John Reald, "Catalogue raisonné des aquarelles de Paul Cézanne", New York, 1984, p. 202, n°474.
- Antoine Terrasse, "Les aquarelles de Cézanne", Flammarion, 1995, Paris, p. 21.

Mont Sainte-Victoire reflecting in Lake Annecy

Cézanne was the first artist to forcefully reject the Western tradition. After the Paris Salon had refused his submissions and following his violent disagreement with the official culture which was prevalent at the time, Cézanne turned to the Impressionist group of painters. He participated in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and painted his masterpiece, Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Bellevue eleven years later (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, 1885).

Overcoming the Impressionist influence, Cézanne entered a new constructive and synthetic phase starting in 1877, which saw him favor color over the subject of his paintings. Abstraction and a search for a completely independent pictorial space started taking center stage in his work. Cézanne used watercolor as an instrument in his quest for representing space and light as accurately as possible. As an experienced watercolorist, he did not hesitate to tear up his paintings when they were not to his satisfaction. Interestingly, the ones that were saved rarely relate to his paintings. They are not what one might call "preparatory studies" but works in their own right. They show how awesomely skilled Cézanne was at brushing transparent washes and offer an essential understanding of his genius. Paul Signac wrote about him: "Watercolor is a lab experiment: Cézanne breaks down the relationship and bridges between the various elements and rebuilds the composition of the volumes”.

When Cézanne painted The Lac d’Annecy in 1896, with its overwhelming composition, Provence is what was actually on his mind (London, Courtauld Institute of Art, P.1932.SC.60). He spoke to his friend Philippe Solari about his homesickness: "The lake is very nice, surrounded by big hills... But when you are born down there, it's over, nothing appeals to you anymore..." At the request of his wife Hortense, the painter went to Talloires, on the shores of Lake Annecy, where he painted about fifteen watercolors of a rare purity. They were not touched up in his studio and forcefully depict the dream of mountains and light that struck the eye of the master of modernity. He wrote to his young friend Joachim Gasque: "The climate is temperate and the surrounding hills are quite high. In this place, the lake is bounded by two gulches and seems to lend itself to the linear exercises of the young ladies..."

The few spots on our watercolor and, most of all, the liquid and colored lines painted on it show the silent power of the majestic environment depicted here, as if Lake Annecy mirrored his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire.
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