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Cezanne's Garden

Cezanne's Garden

by Derek Fell

Paul Cézanne remains one of the world's most beloved Impressionist painters. His works are among the most popular at major museums around the world, and visitors flock each year to Aix-en-Provence, where the garden at his home and studio in Les Lauves remains meticulously maintained to honor his memory.

Now in Cézanne's Garden, award-winning


Paul Cézanne remains one of the world's most beloved Impressionist painters. His works are among the most popular at major museums around the world, and visitors flock each year to Aix-en-Provence, where the garden at his home and studio in Les Lauves remains meticulously maintained to honor his memory.

Now in Cézanne's Garden, award-winning garden writer and photographer Derek Fell offers a groundbreaking approach to the study of the man and his art. Setting images of Cézanne's paintings against breathtaking photographs of his garden as it exists today, Fell offers fresh insight into the man, his art, and the natural world that inspired him. Readers will see how Cézanne's unusual garden — a wooded landscape layered with brilliant greens and punctuated by strong structural elements — reflects the artist's innovative theories on color, texture, structure, and light.

Using Cézanne's own letters and the musings of painters who knew him, Fell draws an astonishing portrait of this socially awkward, hardworking man, complete with his favorite outdoor motifs, his favorite still-life subjects, and even his favorite flower: scabiosa. As he traces the development of the artist's career, Fell takes readers on a tour of gardens from Cézanne's early life — the Jas de Bouffan on his family's estate and the nearby Château Noir — as well as from his adult years, namely his garden and studio at Les Lauves, showing how it was then and how it stands now. For the practicing gardener, Fell also shows how to create a Cézanne-like garden of one's own, including how to create favorite Cézanne motifs such as vertical gardensand leaf tunnels.

Beautifully illustrated with more than one hundred original photographs and a dozen Cézanne masterpieces, Cézanne's Garden is a revealing look — using art, photography, and reflection — at one of the world's most cherished artists.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Adult/High School-For Impressionist artist Paul C zanne, the garden surrounding his home in Aix-en-Provence, France, was a major source of motivation. This beautiful book, the fourth in a series that includes Renoir's Garden (S & S, 1992), Secrets of Monet's Garden (Friedman-Fairfax, 1997), and Van Gogh's Gardens (S & S, 2001), places the renowned artist's masterpieces next to full-color, modern photographs of the garden to allow readers to explore the inner workings of C zanne's mind. This is a superb volume for aspiring artists who want to explore color, composition, and the stories behind works of art. It could also serve as a resource for those interested in garden or landscape design, offering inspiration, tips, and techniques.-John Kiefman, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Cézanne's Early Gardens: The Jas de Bouffan and Château Noir

The artist learns to paint from the great masters; he learns to see from nature.

-- Cézanne, writing to artist Emile Bernard

Art historians consider Cézanne a post-Impressionist painter because he embraced the controversial art movement after its inception. Among the principal proponents of Impressionism were Monet and Renoir, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot. Cézanne later declared his separation from the movement because he believed the Impressionists sought fleeting moments of sunlight and shadow and captured mostly ephemeral reflective lighting effects. As Cézanne's art matured, he considered Impressionist paintings anemic. He developed a style that instead sought to portray nature's structure, solidity, and strength, emphasizing its empirical geometry. In nature's shapes he saw variations of the cylinder, the cone, and the sphere. He eventually called Impressionism "the Sunday celebration of the moment," and he began to portray the permanence of nature in a bolder, more distinctive style. "I proceed very slowly, for nature reveals herself to me in very complex form and constant progress must be made. One must express oneself with distinction and strength," he wrote.

Even though Cézanne enjoyed painting en plein air, directly from nature, he needed a studio in which to finish off his outdoor studies and to paint still lifes during inclement weather. His first studio in Aix was a room provided by his father at the Jas de Bouffan. It was a convenient arrangement, considering that the large parklike gardensurrounding the house was full of interesting subjects to paint.

The year 1897 marked the most disturbing emotional event in Cézanne's life -- the loss of his mother. The event affected him not only psychologically but also physically, for her death forced the sale of the family's estate in order to settle a substantial inheritance the artist shared with his two younger sisters.

Approaching sixty years of age, Cézanne had grown fond of the old house and its somber grounds. He deplored the idea of suddenly pulling himself up by the roots and detaching himself from a property to which his art and life had been anchored for thirty-seven years. He was a man steeped in conservative habits, resentful of the slightest change in his surroundings, and suspicious of all new faces and modern inventions, such as gaslight and electricity.

The Jas de Bouffan

Cézanne's family home, the Jas de Bouffan, was an important early motif, particularly its eerie, mature garden of old trees and dark, formal reflecting pool. On its spacious, austere grounds Cézanne produced thirty-nine oils and seventeen watercolors. The thirty-four-acre (fourteen hectares) estate was purchased by Cézanne's father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, in 1859, and it served as Cézanne's home until 1899, when he and his two sisters sold it to Louis Granel, an agronomic engineer. Following Granel's death, the property passed to his grandson, the late Dr. Frederic Corsy, who sold it to the city of Aix in 1994. Eventually, the city intends to open it to the public as a museum.

Today at Aix it's possible to look through the wrought-iron gates of the mysterious Jas de Bouffan and see its gloomy, ivy-covered faÝade framed by an immense avenue of sycamore trees underplanted with blue irises. The three-story house has a red pantiled roof, beige walls set with tall, arched windows, and blue shutters. One painting, entitled Jas de Bouffan (1885-87), shows the mansion at the end of a sunlit lawn, a snaking garden wall leading the eye past a ProvenÝal farmhouse and across the front of the main house. The farmhouse appears to stand next to the main residence, but this proximity of the two buildings unobscured by trees is a deliberate exaggeration. Although the estate featured several tenant farmhouses, none was so close to the main residence. Cézanne's telescoping of the distances allows him to show the contrast in geometric architectural elements between the dignified elegance of the main building and the more spartan lines of the farmhouse. Both structures are slightly inclined to the left, a favorite distortion to establish Cézanne's perception of equilibrium.

Cézanne painted the main house and the garden from numerous vantage points, and usually framed the house with tall trees. Pool at the Jas de Bouffan (1885-90) is Cézanne's most alluring image of the garden itself, for it shows the atmosphere of the garden without buildings. An elevated reflecting pool appears at one end, topped by a wrought-iron railing of a type used in cemeteries. The pool actually served as a reservoir. Below the pool wall is what appears to be a gravestone: it is actually a wall fountain with a basin for washing laundry. Flanking the pool, and adding to the sinister graveyard atmosphere, is a crouching lion sculpture, its hindquarters raised in the air. The massive trunks of two chestnut trees rise above the pool in the foreground, their pendulous leafy branches providing a shadowy contrast to a sunlit mountain in the distance.

Another painting of the reflecting pool, The Lake at the Jas de Bouffan (1885), shows the heavily shaded pool again looking cemetery-like, with bright pink flowers of a red shrub hydrangea piercing the gloomy atmosphere.

The estate occupies a low-lying plain that is today hemmed in on all sides by traffic congestion and development, intensifying the sad, monastic, oppressive atmosphere of the place. When Renoir visited Cézanne in the winter of 1888 and was offered a room in the house, he found its interior so unsettling that after one night he fled "the dark miserliness that fills the house" and accepted more comfortable lodgings with Cézanne's sister Rose.

Nevertheless, Cézanne was sorry to lose the Jas de Bouffan, and his first inclination was to try to replace it with an equally sinister dwelling and austere garden, the Château Noir (Black Castle), which also became a favorite subject.

The Château Noir

The subject of nineteen oils and twenty watercolors, the ChØteau Noir is situated on a steep, rocky slope along the route du Tholonet. Veiled by tall trees, its topmost floor provides spectacular views of Mont Sainte-Victoire. The property was owned by an eccentric coal merchant, who is said to have painted the interior walls and furniture black. The garden had a brooding atmosphere, with trees and shrubs growing tortuously out of grotesque rock formations. The neo-Gothic house itself, unfinished, was made all the more ghostly by a row of columns intended to support an orangerie that was never completed. The once formal terraced gardens had begun to revert to wilderness. Cézanne loved the place for its wild, oppressive appearance, nature reclaiming man's dominion -- "a virtually inexhaustible source of motifs," according to art historian Evmarie Schmitt, who also expressed the opinion that Cézanne was fascinated with its mystical aura, an aura he emphasized in his paintings.

Cézanne painted its courtyard with an ancient, gnarled pistachio tree uprooting its stonework and threatening to tear the fabric of the house itself apart. He painted the property's tree-canopied, crumbling terraces, its unfinished balustrades, wellheads, and cisterns, ivy-cloaked tree trunks silhouetted against sheer cliff sides, and the tracery of shadows cast onto the bare stone.

Cézanne's most interesting painting of the garden at the Château Noir, Millstone and Cistern Under Trees (1892), shows piles of quarry stones, stone columns, and a millstone stockpiled in the woods, waiting to be used in the construction of the garden terraces. As recently as 1935 the pile of landscape material was still there, almost submerged in undergrowth. All Cézanne's favorite geometric shapes are represented in the painting -- the sphere by the millstone, the cylinder by the cistern, and the cone by intersecting branches from saplings growing through the piles of stone.

Cézanne at first rented a room off the courtyard at the Château Noir to store his work in progress, and after the sale of the Jas de Bouffan, he tried to purchase the property outright but could not come to terms with the owner. Thwarted in his attempt to buy a ready-made home and mature wild garden, he settled on creating his own concept of paradise at Les Lauves, a property equidistant from the Jas de Bouffan and the Château Noir. This half acre of ground won his heart because it was close to his favorite outdoor motifs, especially his beloved mountain and the garden in decline at the Château Noir. Cézanne filled Les Lauves with many enduring natural elements: the organic structural silhouettes of branches, vines, and tree trunks; the billowing, vibrating forms of foliage; the solidity of fieldstone walls, stone steps, benches, and stone terraces. Within a short motor ride were myriad scenic views to paint: groves of splendid umbrella pines with radiating arms; gravel tracks leading through farmland; meadows; woodland; and weatherworn rock escarpments at the base of his revered mountain, Mont Sainte-Victoire. The location was perfect -- a walled space to create a secluded naturalistic garden like no other, and beyond its walls a natural landscape unmatched anywhere in France.

Les Lauves had sloping terrain similar to the Château Noir's, but it had a sunnier aspect. Cézanne immediately set about making terraces like those at the château, hauling to the site large limestone blocks to serve as pedestals for plants in terra-cotta urns. Within five years of purchasing the property, he had succeeded in creating a haven of contentment, with splendid views of Aix downhill from the studio's upstairs windows. To the west loomed the majestic form of Mont Sainte-Victoire, linked to the garden by the road to Le Tholonet.

Copyright © 2003 by Derek Fell

Meet the Author

Derek Fell, a photographer and writer, is the author of more than fifty books, with more than 2.5 million copies in print, including The Impressionist Garden, Renoir's Garden, Secrets of Monet's Garden, Impressionist Bouquets, and Van Gogh's Gardens. He has won more awards from the Garden Writers Association of America than any other writer and for six years he hosted the QVC garden show Step-by-Step Gardening. He was born and educated in England and now lives in Pennsylvania.

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