Posts Tagged ‘Paul Cézanne’


I have to confess to not liking comics very much because they always seem to be about fighting (Zap! Splat!) or sci-fi or supermen. But it seems to be a genre growing in popularity and this month’s ‘Rencontres du 9e Art’ festival in Aix is the largest in Europe.

Consequently, the town is full of colourful publicity banners and a fantasy-inspired roundabout complete with rockets and strange animals is giving rides at the top of the Cours Mirabeau.

sylvieBut I have been converted by the fascinating band-dessinée biography of Paul Cézanne which is magnified along 120 metres of panels in Luynes. This ‘Expo a Ciel Ouvert’ is something I have never seen before and is wonderful. Succinct text and colourful drawings tell the story of the artist in a fresh and immediate way – perfect for introducing young people to our local hero! An added bonus is the fact that the artists have used Cézanne’s own paintings as a backdrop. So young Paul and his friend Emile Zola splash around in the Arc with a background taken from ‘The Bathers’ and so on. You will recognise various bits of Aix in the pictues too.


It’s all based on a book by Alain Exiga, illustrated so cleverly by local artists Olivier Bauza and David Ballon and published by Editions Cerises et Coquelicots of Aix. ‘Paul Cézanne, un rebelle en Provence’ is 14,50€ and available in bookshops in town. The Expo a Ciel Ouvert is outside the Ecole Georges Duby at Luynes – it’s signposted up (look for ‘Palissade Cézanne’ or the school) and so very easy to find.

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I do try and have some sort of coherence to my blog posts but today there is none – a series of random items which may be of interest to people in Aix.

RICHARD VIDAL NAQUETLet’s start with the news today that the Musée Granet has acquired another Cézanne.  Antiquary Richard Vidal-Naquet discovered the small format oil painting (19 cm by 16 cm) – of a young girl drawing. The subject is the painter’s young sister Rose and there is an authenticity certificate written by Maxime Conil, Aix lawyer and husband of Rose Cézanne, then the certificate of sale. It was purchased in 1913 by Aix collector Emmanuel Belval who had acquired it for 300 francs. The Community of Pays d’Aix has paid 300,000 euros for this plus two lithographs and a host of books relating to the work of Cézanne. For more info and to see the painting, see La Provence: http://www.laprovence.com/article/actualites/aix-le-musee-granet-soffre-un-cezanne-inedit

I am also in debt to La Provence for the latest news on wolves which have been attacking lambs in the Var. Now they have entered ’13’,  attacking a flock of sheep at Vauvenargues.  Young wolves are moving closer towards Aix, starting their own packs. It is a nightmare for the éleveurs, who, instead of leaving the sheep out, have to try and get them all under cover at night-time.  I do wonder at the sense ( lack of….) in reintroducing wolves into the countryside.

Now on to swimming:  I often go to the Piscine Yves Blanc which is at the Stade de Carcassonne, near the Torse Park.  It’s an Olympic-size pool, 8 lanes, and uniformally deep…good for doing lengths.  A couple of lengths are often reserved for training the synchro swimmers which is entertaining.piscine_yvesblanc It’s just 2,70 for a swim – you don’t have to be a member. However you do need to wear a swimming hat, and gents have to wear speedo-style bathers (no flowery baggy shorts!). You also need flip-flops to get you from the changing area to the pool as there are lots of cracked tiles.  It’s all a bit tired/municipal baths, but at that price, not to worry.  The link here gives the usual timetable but – and the reason for my post – the pool is closed from now until January 6th for ‘vidage’. It then reopens but is closed on January 13th for a sports event. http://piscines.agglo-paysdaix.fr/pageLibre0001010e.aspx

Flights – I did say this post had random items!  Ryanair have announced that they will be flying from Marseille to Warsaw from January, flights starting at 14€, and will have flights to the UK East Midlands from 31st March,  flights each way, Sundays and Thursdays.

Today’s Sunday Times Travel section has a very good piece on Marseille.  The writer clearly likes the place for its character, ‘brazen, bombastic, picaresque’ which he contrasts with the ‘hysterical tedium’ of the MP2013 literature which he said drove him mad. He’s very positive about the new museums being built, the Vieux Port, the new Silo and was ‘particularly impressed’ with the Chateau de la Buzine film centre.  That is until he got outside and found his car broken into and his suitcase gone. Sad.

While on the subject of museums, there’s a new contemporary art exhibition just started at the Musée des Tapisseries in Aix and do remember that the Gauguin and Van Gogh son-et-lumiere show at Les Baux is closing on the 6th January.

I’ll leave you with this rather funky Christmas tree made out of books anthropologie-book-christmas-tree-300x300and a link to see some more fun ways of building books into trees.  And now it’s back to peeling sprouts!http://www.freshdesignblog.com/tag/christmas-tree-made-from-books/ 


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Here’s a lovely thing to do on a sunny day – très insolite as the French would say.  To paint his beloved mountain, Cézanne used to leave his studio at Les Lauves and go up a nearby hill to set up his easel and start work.  It’s quite easy now to follow in his footsteps and share the wonderful view.

The hillside has been landscaped so you climb up honey-coloured stone steps, through gardens of lavender, rosemary and oleander.

At the top, there is a paved viewing area with 9 panels showing different versions of the mountain completed 1902-1906.  Today these are in Basel (2), Zurich (2), NY, Philadelphia, Princeton, Moscow and Kansas City….but we can enjoy the reproductions and of course we have THAT VIEW!

It’s a tranquil spot – we were alone there when we visited yesterday – and amazingly there are no modern buildings to spoil the vista that Cézanne loved to paint.



To find it, follow the Avenue Paul Cézanne right to the top of the hill.

 Look out for these signs which point out the stone steps leading to the park.  There is no parking so you have to find somewhere nearby. It’s served by the no 5 bus-stop = Les Peintres.


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http://www.mairie-aixenprovence.fr/Journees-du-Patrimoine This is the link for this weekend’s programme.  You can download the 64pp guide or collect one from the tourist office or mairie.

The theme this weekend is WATER, the very raison d’etre of the town.  There are several walks organised, visiting aquaducts and fountains – all in the guide.  The celebrity this year is Darius Milhaud local composer who is the subject of a free expo at the tourist office (post to follow).  Here are some events to look out for this weekend:

  • Cézanne’s family home at Jas de Bouffan has free guided tours Sat and Sun
  • Musée Granet has free tours of Les Chefs d’Oeuvre du Musée Frieder Burda which ends 30th Sept and has so far clocked up 60,000 visitors since it opened
  • Exhibition L’Art et L’Eau at Thermes Sextius Spa – 50 artists. Until 13 Oct
  • Jeu de Paume theatre is open for guided visits Sat and Sun; plus there’s a concert on Sat in celebration of Darius Milhaud at 17:00hrs
  • The Pavillon Noir has visits at 15:00 and 18:00hrs
  • Le Petit Chateau, 10-18, Sat and Sun – this is the pretty house on Bd du Roy-René not normally open to the public
  • Entremont has a 2 hr archaelogical tour Sat 15:00
  • Free tours at the lovely vineyard Chateau La Coste but they have to be reserved: https://aixcentric.com/2011/11/22/world-class-art-at-chateau-la-coste/
  • The newly open Camp des Milles will be part of the programme: https://aixcentric.com/2012/09/09/prime-ministers-visit-part-1/
  • Lots of activity in the Arles-Tarascon-St Remy area – see www.journal-farandole.fr

Sunday only

  • Route Cézanne is car free 14-19:00 Sun – thanks to Patrick for sending this info.  Apparently this annual pedestrianisation was rained off in the spring so take advantage of this opportunity to bike or hike in Cézanne’s footsteps.
  • Rides in vintage cars for guide-dogs charity.  Top of Cours Mirabeau. Sun 10-17:00. 
  • Outside Aix, the Château du Roi René at Peyrolles is open on Sun. 

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In a previous post ‘In Praise of Madame Cézanne’, I said that I wondered what happened to her after the artist’s death – I’d heard that she took to gambling.  Well, thanks to an excellent book, ‘Hidden in the Shadow of the Master’ by Ruth Butler, I found out more: she quickly got out of Aix and didn’t return, spent time in Swizerland which she had always loved, saw her son Paul marry and produce 4 grandchildren, sold her husband’s paintings – and yes, went to Monaco gambling on the proceeds.  I think she’d earned them!

Hortense Fiquet came from a poor background and certainly had a difficult marriage with such a temperamental man; but she emerges as a fairly strong character who withstood his behaviour and the pressures of the Cézanne family. 

She was a very patient person apparently – she sat for 28 paintings and over 50 drawings, a process with tried the patience of all his sitters. And at the beginning at least, there is evidence of the closeness of the relationship.  I’m grateful to the book for showing me this lovely drawing of Hortense just after the birth of baby Paul.  The artist has added a hortensia in her honour.

Madame Cézanne is one of the three women profiled in this book – the other two are Camille Doncieux who became Madame Monet and Rose Beuret who eventually – 2 weeks before her death – married August Rodin.

What lives they had.

All three were their husbands’ models and all had very difficult lives.  In the early years, the Monets were so much in debt that they had to flee bailiffs over-night and often had no food.  But Camille was a spirited lady – she loved clothes and found beautiful dresses to include in her husband’s portraits.  Contemporary accounts tell us that she was a welcoming hostess and excellent mother, despite their poverty.

 Sadly she died very young before her husband became so successful – and wealthy.

Rose Beuret supported Rodin loyally – cleaning, cooking, modelling, working in the studio on the sculptures, and earning money by sewing.  Like the Cézannes they had happy years but as his fame grew, he increasingly left her at home, ashamed of her working-class background and lack of sophistication.  Finally rich, he installed her in a château with a lovely park, while he took off with Camille Claudel, Gwen John and a host of other women. 

Ruth Butler’s research shows that Rose was hidden away from important guests and that visitors would assume she was a housekeeper. But she was jealous and did have blazing rows with Rodin – he apparently told Vita Sackville-West that she used to hit him.  But as she sickened, he did make his will leaving everything to her – and finally married her, to her great joy, in the nick of time.

This is a fascinating book which tells us so much about these long-suffering women and also gives insights into the artists, the art-world and 19th century French society.

Ruth Butler is professor emerita from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her book is published by Yale University Press. 

A portrait of Madame Cézanne is on view at the Musée Granet.

To view the book on amazon click the Amazon link below


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Today, on International Women’s Day, I would like raise a glass to Madame Cézanne, Aix’s unsung heroine! I wonder why she has attracted so much misogyny?  After all, she didn’t have an easy innings. 


List of paintings by Paul Cézanne

Image via Wikipedia

Born Marie-Hortense Fiquet in Saligney in April 1850, she moved to Paris to work as book-binder but also an artists’ model at the Academie Suisse where she met Paul Cézanne. To avoid his involvement in the Franco-Prussian war, the couple moved south – but not to Aix. Cézanne wanted to keep this relationship secret from his family, especially his father, and so found lodgings in L’Estaque. Even the birth of baby Paul in 1872 was kept secret for years. 

They finally married in the church in cours Sextius on 28th April 1886, just before Cézanne’s father died. From then, they seem to have led separate lives – Cézanne at Jas de Bouffan with his mother and sister, she either in an apartment Aix with her son or in Paris, her preference. Cézanne famously said: ‘My wife only cares for Switzerland and lemonade’. He can’t have been an easy partner – famously prickly, difficult, unsettled. And it must have been so lonely for her to be in Provence, away from her own mountainous region, living alongside a bourgeois family who looked down on her.

Portrait of Madame Cézanne with Loosened Hair....

Roger Fry called her a ‘sour-faced bitch’ while DH Lawrence commented on her ‘appleyness’. Her pose in portraits is said to indicate self-absorption – she was, critics said, not interested in her husband’s work. And on and on. But actually she sat for 44 portraits. I can’t imagine that being other than an ordeal. Certainly Vollard, Cézanne’s dealer found it so. After initial pleasantries, the painter didn’t speak and refused to let his sitter move for hours on end. They had 100 sittings and then gave up, leaving the picture unfinished. And, as for her expression, find me a happy Cézanne subject – gardeners, peasants, card-players, all introspective and abstracted.

I would love to know what happened to Hortense. We know that Cézanne left his all estate to his son, nothing for her, and that she lived on for another 16 years until 1922. According to one scholar, she took up gambling. If so, good for her. I have ordered ‘Hidden in the Shadow of the Master’ which examines the lives of the Impressionist wives and hope to find out more!










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In 1896, Cézanne was in Paris painting his art dealer Ambroise Vollard who remembers the artist saying: “Ah! When will I see a picture of mine in a museum?”

During the previous 5 years, he had been working on his series of card-players – actually his gardener Père Alexandre and local peasant Paulin Paulet.  Cézanne posed them (separately – he worked very slowly) at Jas de Bouffan which he had recently inherited from his father.  This death left him wealthy but at this stage the 52-year-old painter had sold next to nothing.  Only Monet and Pissarro were starting to make financial headway.  This particular version of the card players was acquired by Vollard who subsequently sold it to a margarine-millionaire in Neuilly.  There it remained until it went to the home of Greek tycoon George Embiricos who refused to part with it until near to death. 

Cézanne would surely have been astonished to know that this picture would, in 2011, be the world’s most expensive painting.  It has been bought for 250m€ by the ruling royal family of Qatar.   

This is the previous world-record holder – a Jackson Pollock which went for a mere 140m€.

In other Cézanne related news, his studio at Les Lauves has just announced that they have got their funding to extend the ground floor, thus opening more of the original building to the public – the new area will be for the ticket office and also an exhibition space.  Most of the money has come from the Japanese who are borrowing some of the props from the studio for the forthcoming Cezanne exhibition in Tokyo – they are recreating his studio onsite!

Finally, passengers at the TGV station in Aix this summer will be able to admire Cézanne’s paintings while waiting for their trains.  There will be reproductions of 44 oils and 43 watercolours to admire – we don’t need petro-millions to enjoy his colours and composition!

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