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Mill on the Couleuvre at Pontoise

Paul Cézanne1881

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

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.

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Details

  • Title: Mill on the Couleuvre at Pontoise
  • Creator: Paul Cézanne
  • Date Created: 1881
  • Physical Dimensions: w91.5 x h73.5 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • original title: Le moulin sur la Couleuvre à Pontoise
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 606
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, http://www.bpk-images.de
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter. Following the wish of his father, a banker, he began studying law in 1859, while simultaneously taking evening classes at the local drawing school. His teacher was the painter Jospeh Gibert. His early works demonstrate the influence of Romanticism which was to disappear later on. In 1861 he moved to Paris where he studied at the Académie Suisse, specializing mainly in drawings of nudes. Parallel to this, he copied the works of old masters in the Louvre such as those by Michelangelo, Rubens and Titian. In 1872 he followed his friend Pissarro to Pontoise where he was taught by him. As a result of his influence, Cézanne’s initial preference for dark colours ended and his gaze turned towards finding new ways of depicting outdoor light, a core interest of Impressionism. Two years later he took part in an exhibition of young Parisian artists who felt disgruntled by the Salon de Paris and who later became known as the Impressionists. From 1890 until his death he withdrew into his painting, at times leading a recluse-like existence. During this time however, his works became famous, gaining him respect from a new generation of artists. Cézanne formed a bridge from the Impressionism of the late 19th century to the Cubism of the early 20th century. He was a master of colour and composition and a forerunner of abstraction. In contrast to most artists of his time, he was deeply influenced by Gustave Courbet and Eugène Delacroix and their realistic approach to the painted subject. He was the first artist to depict objects broken down in their simple geometric forms. Cézanne is well known for compositions like 'Mill On The Couleuvre near Pontoise' (1881), 'The Card Players' (1892) and 'Still Life with a Curtain' (1895).
  • Artist Place of Death: Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Artist Place of Birth: Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Artist Dates: 1839-01-19/1906-10-22

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