Paul Cézanne
(Aix-en-Provence, 1839-1906, Aix-en-Provence)
The Mont de Cengle, ca. 1904/06
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Rewald 928
It is a mark of Emil Bührle's collection that the chief exponents of Impressionism and post-Impressionism are not just represented in it by celebrated masterpieces. The main works are accompanied by smaller paintings, making it possible to study the personal development of each artist step by step. This way of consolidating a collection stems from a concept of art history that was current in the 1950s, when the Bührle Collection was being assembled. At that time, the history of modern painting from French Impressionism onwards was seen as a narrative of development, in the course of which each generation of artists continued from where its predecessors had left off. Accordingly, the changes and progress taking place within the oeuvres of the main protagonists also had to be documented. In the Bührle Collection, a couple of striking early works by Paul Cézanne are complemented by two from the last years of his life. The painting of Mont de Cengle, which was left unfinished at the artist's death, shows a mountain not far from Aix-en-Provence. The way in which it is painted demonstrates many of the features that make Cézanne's art so significant to modern painting. Separate blocks of colour with hatched brushwork combine in the mind's eye to conjure up an intimation of the landscape that originally confronted the artist. It can safely be assumed that he would have worked up the foreground to a state similar to the rest of the composition. It is, however, uncertain how much – if at all – he would have painted over the smaller gaps where bare canvas is visible. Those left in the sky, for example, could be interpreted as clouds. In allowing plain, primed canvas to function as a pictorial element, Cézanne broke with a centuries-old tradition, according to which a continuous covering of paint was a prerequisite for a completed work of art.