Painted circa 1879, Village derrière les arbres, Ile de France is a landscape that perfectly condenses the ideas that Paul Cézanne had developed during the years leading up to this point, and which would continue to reverberate through the history of art for decades to come. In the deliberate squareness of the brushstrokes, it can be seen that Cézanne has truly constructed this landscape, creating a sense of depth through the planarity of these areas of dabbed colour. Gone entirely is the feathered brushstroke of his earlier Impressionist phase. Indeed, this work marks his departure from Impressionism. For Cézanne now was no longer interested in mere visual sensation, but in conveying an understanding that was more profound of the scene before him: 'There are two things in painting, vision and mind, and they should work in unison,' Cézanne explained. 'As a painter, one must try to develop them harmoniously: vision, by looking at nature; mind, by ruling one's senses logically, thus providing the means of expression' (Cézanne, quoted in F. Elgar, Cézanne, London, 1969, p. 85). This is reflected in the sense of discreet monumentality with which he has managed to fill this landscape, which achieves its aim of translating a physical as well as a visual sensation, but achieves it through consciously developed 'optic' means.
The extent to which Cézanne had departed from his own Impressionist beginnings and had struck out on his own unique path can be seen by a comparison between Village derrière les arbres, Ile de France and a painting clearly showing the same view by his former friend and fellow artist, Armand Guillaumin. The pair had a friendship that lasted for almost two decades, dating from Cézanne's arrival in Paris and at the Atelier Suisse. It was, indeed, through Guillaumin that Cézanne was introduced to Pissarro, resulting in one of the most important artistic pairings in the history of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. During the 1860s and 1870s, several motifs can be seen to have been painted by both Guillaumin and Cézanne. Sometimes this was the result of the pair going on painting expeditions together in the outskirts of Paris, a limitation that was caused by Guillaumin's poverty and the obligations of a professional position that he had acquired working for the State. It is this limitation that has helped to suggest the location of the present painting as being in the Ile de France. At other times, the works show similar motifs because Cézanne had clearly used the pictures of Guillaumin as prompts, copying from them, as in Péniches sur la Seine à Bercy in the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, which is attributed a date of 1876-78, as opposed to the 1873-75 date ascribed to Guillaumin's original.
There already, it can be seen that Cézanne was using his friend's and sometime neighbour's painting as a pretext in order to explore his own ideas for capturing sensation through an increasing impression of volume. In Village derrière les arbres, Ile de France, John Rewald has pointed towards the differences in the foliage and the similarities in several other areas between this picture and Guillaumin's of the same view that indicate that these paintings were not derived from one another, but where instead painted from the same vantage point, perhaps at the same time. However, the difference in style is marked. Already one can see at play the various techniques that Cézanne would years later describe to Emile Bernard when he encouraged him to
'see in nature the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, putting everything in proper perspective, so that each side of an object or a plane is directed toward a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, that is, a section of nature... Lines perpendicular to the horizon give depth. But nature, for us men, is more depth than surface, whence the necessity of introducing in our vibrations of light represented by reds and yellows a sufficient quantity of blue to give the feeling of air' (Cézanne, quoted in J. Rewald, Cézanne: A Biography, New York, 1986, p. 226).
Although the two artists were for a long time great friends, spending a good deal of time together and even living in neighbouring houses, their relationship appears to have cooled at about the time that they gained financial independence, Guillaumin from a lottery win, Cézanne from the death of his father. Rewald also wondered whether their respective wives may not have been entirely compatible... Certainly the author recounts that,
'Signac was never to forget how, as a young man, he was walking one day along the Seine with Guillaumin who had been his master when he was first beginning. When they caught sight of Cézanne coming toward them and were ready to greet him with effusion, they saw him making gestures, begging them to pass him by; amazed and deeply moved, they crossed the street and went on in silence' (J. Rewald, Studies in Impressionism, I. Gordon & F. Weitzenhoffer (ed.), London, 1985, pp. 117-18).
So this friendship had fallen victim, in part at least, to the notoriously difficult and complex character of the Master of Aix. It is telling, though, in relation to the bonds of the Impressionists and in looking at Village derrière les arbres, Ile de France, to see that the bond between the two artists was long remembered, even if some neglected to understand that Cézanne had been prompted, but not influenced, by his friend. Indeed, following the first one-man show of Cézanne's works, held in 1895 at Vollard's, Pissarro was outraged by what he overheard, and wrote furiously to his son:
'Would you believe that Heymann has the cheek to advance the absurdity that Cézanne has always been influenced by Guillaumin? Then how do you expect outsiders to understand anything! This monstrosity was expressed at Vollard's. Vollard turned blue' (Pissarro, quoted in ibid., p. 118).
It is a tribute to the importance of Village derrière les arbres, Ile de France that it passed through the hands of the eminent German dealer, connoisseur and author Paul Cassirer, and to note its extensive early exhibition history in exhibitions including the 1913 Berlin Seccession.
Village derrière les arbres, Ile de France
Oil on canvas
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Paul Cezanne , late 19th Century, Paintings, canvas, France, Impressionist, townscape
Berlin, Secession Ausstellungshaus, Berliner Secession, Spring 1913, no. 37.
Budapest, Ernst Museum, The Great French Masters of the XIXth Century, 1913, no. 73.
Vienna, LXXXII Austellung der Sezession: Führende Meister der französische Kunst in 19. Jahrhundert, March - April 1925, no. 82 (illustrated p. 37; titled Landschaft).
Philadelphia, Museum of Art, Cézanne in Philadelphia Collections, June - August 1983, no. 6. (illustrated p. 12).
Philadelphia, Museum of Art (on loan, 1983-1988).
Paris, Galerie Odermatt-Cazeau, Maîtres des XIXe et XXe siècles, 1989, no. 5 (illustrated).
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
21 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (55.5 x 46 cm.)
M. Denis, 'Cézanne', in Kunst und Künstler, 1914, (illustrated p. 188).
L'Amour de l'Art, May 1925 (illustrated p. 177).
K. Pfister, Cézanne: Gestalt Werk, Mythos, Potsdam, 1927 (illustrated fig. 53).
L. Venturi, Cézanne: son art - son oeuvre, vol. I, Paris, 1936, no. 165, p. 103 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 44).
F. Novotny, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1780 to 1880, London, 1960 (illustrated p. 173).
S. Orienti, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Cézanne, Paris, 1975, no. 161 (illustrated p. 93).
J. Rewald, 'Cézanne and Guillaume', in Etudes d'art francais offertes à Charles Sterling, Paris, 1975 (illustrated fig. 224).
J. Rewald, Cézanne: A Biography, New York, 1986 (illustrated p. 132).
J. Rewald, Studies in Impressionism, New York, 1986, p. 114 (illustrated fig. 62).
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A catalogue raisonné, London, 1996, no. 403, p. 268 (illustrated vol. II, p. 127).
Oskar Bondy, Vienna, 1905-1907.
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Paul Cassirer, Berlin.
Dr. Hermann Eissler, Vienna, by 1913.
Private collection, Paris, by 1936.
M. Knoedler & Co., New York.
Rodman W. Edmiston, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania.
William H. Taylor, Philadelphia.
Private collection, Philadelphia.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1988, lot 17.
Galerie Odermatt-Cazeau, Paris.
Private collection, Japan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2000.