Paul Cézanne
(Aix-en-Provence, 1839-1906, Aix-en-Provence)
The Gardener Vallier, ca. 1904/06
Oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm
Rewald 953
With the exception of a brief journey to Paris and Fontainebleau in 1904, Cézanne in the last years of his life did not leave Aix-en-Provence. After the death of his parents he sold the estate Jas de Bouffan in 1899, and he had built, above Aix in 1902 on the Chemin des Lauves, a roomy studio for himself in a garden commanding a view of the Arc valley and on to the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Here Vallier was Cézanne’s gardener and last model. Cézanne painted him in his Sunday best with visored cap, and, preferably, in working clothes with straw sun hat. In these grandiose paintings of his old age, Cézanne casts off the restrictive fetters of Constructivism, and allows himself to be guided solely by his artistic intuition, to which he gives expression in free, almost hasty brushwork. He has little time, for he feels the approach of death. On October 16, 1906, on the way home from painting, he is surprised by a thunderstorm and suffers a breakdown. "The next day early in the morning even, he went into the garden to work, under the linden, on a portrait of Vallier" (Letter of Marie Cézanne to the artist’s son dated October 20). Vallier sits en face with crossed legs and folded arms; the sunlight falling through the branches and producing spots of light erases the boundary between figure and landscape. The two great themes of the artist are united. The death of Cézanne on October 22, 1906, leaves the work unfinished.