L'Estaque is a hamlet on the bay of Marseilles, five miles northwest of Marseilles itself and eighteen miles southwest of Aix-en-Provence. Cézanne's mother rented a cottage there for summer vacations, and the artist visited the village frequently, including extended stays in 1870, 1878-1879, and 1883. He was drawn there both by the town's proximity to his family in Aix and by the beauty of its views. At l'Estaque Cézanne fully explored the potential of plein-air painting, executing some of his greatest landscapes.
Writing about Cézanne's views of the bay of Marseilles, Meyer Shapiro has commented:
A marvelous peace and strength emanate from [his] work--the true feeling of the Mediterranean, the joy of an ancient nature which man has known how to sustain through the simplicity of his own constructions. (M. Shapiro, Paul Cezanne, New York, 1952, p. 62)
Cézanne executed the present picture sometime between July 1878 and March 1879. It is one of three closely related views of l'Estaque which he painted at this time; of the other two, one has a canopy of trees in the foreground (fig. 1) like the present work, while the other is distinguished by the absence of the trees (Rewald, no. 392; Stiftung Langmatt Sydney and Jenny Brown, Baden). Although Cézanne depicted the same group of buildings in all three paintings, he slightly varied the viewpoint in each, as well as the details of the structures. In the present work, for example, the building in the middle distance at the right appears longer than it does in the other two paintings, while the hut silhouetted against the water in the center is narrower than in the other versions; moreover, Cézanne truncated the smokestack at the left, which appears much taller in the related pictures. (The presence of the smokestack suggests that the building is a tile or brick factory, a common industry in l'Estaque.) The treatment of the foliage in the three paintings also differs: in the present work it is sketchier and lighter than in the version in the Musée Picasso (fig. 1). As John Rewald has commented about the present picture, "The upper part, where trees and water meet, is handled with particular freedom" (J. Rewald, op. cit., p. 264).
The composition of the present painting has a dynamic equilibrium. The placement of the trees is nearly symmetrical, and the narrow ledge of land at the bottom of the canvas is balanced by the light band of sky at the top. The land in the middle distance forms an irregular triangle that rises from the left to the right, and the trees at the right form a triangle that rises from the right to the left; the lines of the two triangles cross just slightly above and to the right of the center of the picture. Lionello Venturi, in reference to the Musée Picasso painting, praised "the perfect equilibrium of the composition: expression of beauty, strength, certitude" (L. Venturi, op. cit, p. 53).
To paint his landscapes at l'Estaque, Cézanne typically climbed the hills above the village and set up his easel on the edge of the pine woods there. This vantage, seen here, permitted both the privacy he sought when painting and the best views of the village and bay. The present work is also characteristic in its depiction of the land as a triangular wedge. In the two other views of the bay which Rewald has dated 1878-1879, Cézanne treated the fall of the land in the same fashion (fig. 2 and Rewald, no. 394; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester).
In two letters written to Zola in the latter part of 1878, Cézanne mentioned his engagement with landscape painting:
I intend spending the whole time there if my father gives me the money. In this way I could continue some studies I am making at l'Estaque, which I do not propose leaving until the last possible moment. (Letter of August 27, 1878; in ed. J. Rewald, Paul Cézanne, Letters, London, 1941, pp. 121-122)
There are some very beautiful views here. The difficulty is to reproduce them, it is not exactly my line. I began to perceive nature rather late; though this does not prevent it being full of interest for me. (Letter of December 19, 1878; in ibid., p. 131)
The present painting may be one of the nature-studies Cézanne had in mind when writing to Zola. Indeed, of the seven l'Estaque pictures which Rewald has dated 1878-1879, three, including the present painting, depict this same view. (Moreover, five of these pictures are already in institutional collections.)
Earlier Cézanne had written to Zola in praise of plein-air painting:
But you know all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as the things done outside. When out-of-doors scenes are represented, the contrasts between the figures and the ground is astounding and the landscape is magnificent. I see some superb things and I shall have to make up my mind only to do things out-of-doors. (Letter of October 19, 1866; in ibid., pp. 74-75)
Zola also knew l'Estaque well and wrote a beautiful description of it in his novel Naos Micoulin:
A market town situated at the farthest suburban reaches of Marseilles, at the end of a rocky cul-de-sac, which closes off the bay... The countryside is superb. From both sides of the bay rocky arms are outstretched so that the offshore islands seem to block the horizon and the sea is nothing but a vast pool, a lake, intensely blue in good weather. At the foot of the mountains, in the background, Marseilles, Marseilles staggering its houses on the low hills... And the coast takes leave of Marseilles, deepens and widens in great indentations before arriving at l'Estaque, bordered by the factories that release from time to time tall plumes of smoke... But the village, its back against the mountains, is traversed by roads that disappear in the midst of a chaos of jagged rocks... Nothing equals the wild majesty of these gorges hollowed out between the hills, narrow paths twisting at the bottom of an abyss, arid slopes covered with pines and with walls the color of rust and blood... Then again paths full of brambles, inpenetrable thickets, piles of stones, dried up streams, all the surprises of a walk through a desert. High up, above the black border of the pines is placed the endless band of blue silk of the sky... When this dried out country gets thoroughly wet, it takes on colors...of great violence: the red earth bleeds, the pines have an emerald reflection, the rocks are bright with the whiteness of fresh laundry. (Quoted in J. Rewald, Cézanne, A Biography, New York, 1986, p. 93)
When Renoir visited Cézanne in l'Estaque, he too was moved by the sublimity of the landscape, exclaiming:
How beautiful it is! It's certainly the most beautiful place in the world, and not yet inhabited... There are only some fishermen and the mountains...so there are no walls, no properties or few ...here I have the true countryside at my doorstep. (Quoted in J. House, Renoir, London, 1985, p. 233)
1878 was a difficult year for Cézanne. In the spring his father discovered that Cézanne had a mistress, Hortense Fiquet, and an illegitimate son; disapproving of the situation, he cut the painter's stipend in half to one hundred francs a month. To survive, Cézanne turned to Zola, who gave him an additional sixty francs a month. However, by the end of the year Cézanne and his father had reconciled, and the artist's work at l'Estaque resumed.
(fig. 1) Paul Cézanne, La mer à l'Estaque derrière les arbres, 1878-1879
Musée Picasso, Paris
(fig. 2) Paul Cézanne, Le Golfe de Marseille vu de l'Estaque, 1878-1879
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
L'Estaque vu à travers les arbres
Oil on canvas
Dr. Rudolf Heinemann (1901-1975) was one of the most distinguished art dealers of his generation. He was born in Munich and studied there, and then in Berlin and in Florence. After a year's apprenticeship with the formidable Dr. Wilhelm von Bode at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, he was recommended to Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza to catalogue his rapidly growing collection. He went on to organize the first major exhibition of the Baron's pictures at the Neue Pinakothek, Munich in 1930, and helped to create the collection at the gallery of the Villa Favorita in Lugano, which opened in 1936. Political persecution caused Dr. Heinemann to move to the United States, where he set up as an independent dealer. He continued to find pictures for the Thyssen Collection, including Ghirlandaio's Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni and Fra Angelico's Madonna and Child with Angels; Frans Hals's great Family Group; and Carpaccio's Young Knight in Landscape. His clientele expanded to include the foremost American museums: for instance, he played a part in the acquisition for the Frick of The Virgin and Child with Saints and a Donor by Jan van Eyck, Saint Simon by Piero della Francesca and The Sermon on the Mount by Claude. Much more the scholarly connoisseur than the salesman, Dr. Heinemann never owned his own gallery, but preferred to work discreetly in partnership with other firms, most frequently with Arnold Seligmann, Knoedler, and Agnew's.
He met Lore, likewise an exile from Germany, in New York, and they were married in 1947. While never taking an active role in the business, Lore shared Rudolf's passion for travel and works of art, and together they acquired and in effect created three widely contrasting establishments--in New York on Fifth Avenue, handily placed for the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum, at Mount Kisco some forty miles outside the city, and above the lake of Lugano at Castagnola, close indeed to the Villa Favorita--and they furnished all three with a dazzling array of pictures and drawings of all schools and of most periods, together with fine furniture, silver, porcelain, and jewelry. It is works from this collection that Christie's are honored to offer in a series of sales in New York and in London from May 1997 to January 1998.
Lore Heinemann survived her husband by more than twenty years and elegantly and hospitably presided over the collection, which she left undisturbed though she was sometimes tempted to make additions. During that period she maintained enthusiastic involvement with the boards of many of the great museums of their jointly adopted country and continued the close friendship with Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen that she and Rudolf had enjoyed. Following her death in September last year, several museums received benefactions of remarkable generosity. The Morgan Library, for instance, whose masterpieces by Ghirlandaio and Fra Angelico had passed through Heinemann's hands into Thyssen's in 1935, are now the happy recipients of the matchless collection of Tiepolo drawings with which Rudolf and Lore had with pride adorned the walls of their New York apartment. The Metropolitan Museum has been given an exquisite pair of Guardi interiors, pictures by Giovanni di Paolo, Taddeo Gaddi, Uccello and Poussin--and an outstanding Rubens oil sketch and a jewel-like Ostade watercolor. The National Gallery of Art receives Cariani's masterpiece Three Musicians, which serenaded visitors to the Lugano house, and a group of Piazzetta drawings.
This chronical of generosity could imply that nothing of consequence remains to be sold. On the country, Cézanne's shimmering L'Estaque vu à travers les arbres, now dated 1878-1879, is one of the freshest and most desirable of Cézanne's landscapes and was sorely missed in the recent exhibitions devoted to the artist when the owner's failing health made her decline to lend it. The group of five drawings by Ingres (to be sold in New York on 22nd May) is as choice and varied as has appeared at auction in living memory, and there is a fine watercolor of an Alpine lake by the Munich painter Wilhelm von Kobell; in the same sale, pictures by Courbet, his early Le sculpteur (an idealized self-portrait?) and by Corot, La jeune Grecque, provide a contrast in romantic sensibility with the portrait drawing of a young Greek made in 1830 by the Nazarene artist Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
The Heinemanns' love of Old Masters, and their breadth of taste and culture, are tellingly expressed by another beguiling portrait, that of a young lady traditionally held to be Clarice Pusterla, where Giovanni Boltraffio, Leonardo da Vinci's gifted follower, comes close to the subtlety and emotional charge of his great mentor. On the same day (London, July 4th) will be sold a rarity by Jan van de Cappelle, Winter Landscape with Skaters, a particular favorite of Dr. Heinemann's, which shows the artist at the height of his powers, as adept at conveying the chill of a winter day as he is the vaporous atmosphere of the more familiar sea-pieces. Venice, which the Heinemanns so frequently visited, is well-represented, with works by Tintoretto, Sebastian Ricci, Pietro Longhi, Francesco Guardi and Francesco Zuccarelli. Old Master drawings (London, July 1st) include a view of the Piazza San Marco by Canaletto, a powerful brush drawing by Castiglione, an exceptional series of landscapes and views of Rome and elsewhere by that honorary Italian Gaspard van Wittel, called Vanvitelli, an evocative panorama by Philips de Koninck, and notable examples by Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Nicolas Lancret. As a reminder of the bequest to the Morgan Library, a fine series of etchings by the Tiepolos, assembled by Tomàs Harris, previous owner of so many of the Tiepolo drawings, will be presented in the sale of Old Master prints a few days earlier (London, June 26th).
A brief account of this kind can do no more than superficially touch on the characters and achievements of these two remarkable personalities, part of whose private collection is now to illuminate the market. Their wide circle of friends, acquaintances and admirers--and those who knew them only by reputation--may yet be surprised afresh, even inspired, by the breadth of interest and the appreciation of quality exemplified by the art which they chose to own.
Property from the Collection of THE LATE LORE and RUDOLF HEINEMANN
Being Sold for the Benefit of
The Pierpont Morgan Library and The National Gallery of Art
Cologne, Sonderbund, Internationale Kunstausstellung, May-Sept., 1912, p. 33, no. 147
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum (on loan)
Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, La pintura francesa de David a nuestros días, July-Aug. and Oct.-Nov., 1939, p. 37, no. 9
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Impressionist Treasures from Private Collections in New York, Jan., 1966, p. 10, no. 2 (illustrated)
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture from Private Collections, July-Sept., 1966, no. 21
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture from Private Collections, July-Sept., 1967, p. 2, no. 14
17 5/8 x 21 in. (44.7 x 53.4 cm.)
K. Scheffler, "Die Jüngsten," Kunst und Künstler, 1913, p. 393 (illustrated)
G. Rivière, Le Maître Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1923, p. 208
J. Meier-Graefe, Cézanne, London, 1927, pl. CIII (illustrated)
L. Venturi, Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 157, no. 427 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 120)
"Impressionist Treasures," Arts, Jan., 1966, p. 12 (illustrated)
S. Orienti, L'opera completa di Cézanne, Milan, 1970, p. 106, no. 423 (illustrated)
J.J. Rishel, "La mer à l'Estaque," in exh. cat., Cézanne, Grand Palais, Paris, 1995-1996, p. 222 (illustrated, fig. 1)
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, p. 264, no. 396 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 124)
Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Elsa Tischner-von Durant, Freising
Galerien Thannhauser, Berlin
Lotte Cassirer-Fürstenberg, Berlin
Paul Cassirer, Amsterdam
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
Acquired by the late owners before 1966