Cézanne’s art was still highly controversial when the Nationalgalerie purchased this painting: it was only two years previously that the French government had accepted two of his works as part of the Caillebotte donation, but had rejected another three. For a long time, Cézanne commuted between his place of birth, Aix-en-Provence, and Paris, although he also stayed in various towns of the Ile-de-France. Camille Pissarro lived in Pontoise northwest of Paris. Cézanne paid him several visits there (the first in 1872, the last from May to October of 1881), and their work together encouraged him in the direction of light, impressionistic colours: “We perhaps all go back to Pissarro,” he later said. The older painter also led him to that clarity and calm that pervade the painting of the mill, and which are achieved despite extraordinary accuracy in his portrayal of the motif; this is clear from old pictures showing the Moulin des Etannets on the rue des Deux Ponts, one of many mills in that area that depended on the corn trade for its existence. The flat white houses in the background create a sober effect. At the same time, there is a geometric order that takes in the whole picture plane. The composition is governed by strict horizontals and verticals cutting across each other. Despite interruptions, these apparently run as parallels throughout the whole picture; closer examination, however, shows that in the lower half of the picture, that is to say in the foreground, they slope away increasingly into diagonals. The colours range through shades of green to airy blue and ocher. Since each brushstroke is independent — whether short and straight or curved or even curled — the paint does not entirely cover the painting’s ground, thus incorporating its pale, immaterial quality.