Channeling Cézanne

MSV_2What do you think of the blog so far? Leave a comment and let me know. Some of you may have noticed I will plug various elements from emails to folks back Stateside into the blog wherever they fit. Posting is a bit sporadic and I am not hitting my goal of daily blogs, but I suppose quality is preferable to quantity, and I try to recap the missed days when I do post.

I am reading a great book right now called “The Private Lives of the Impressionists” by Sue Roe, that I picked up at the Impressionist show at the National Gallery in London. The book describes the interrelated nature of the group of artists that came together in Paris in the latter part of the 19th century and were subsequently called the Impressionists. It also details how they made their marks on the art world and turned conventional artistic thinking on its head.

MSV_1Yesterday was a great studio day. While Miss Cyd enjoyed the Easter Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Sainte-Sauveur, I completed a couple of sketches, including Cézanne’s hut at Les Carrières des Bibémus, and made some major progress on my convent steeple painting. It is not done yet, but a few more hours of detail work and it should be ready for display. I am still considering whether to add a couple of slightly out-of-focus buildings on either side of the steeple to frame it or just leave it as a single central element against this incredible Provençal sky. Only time will tell.

UphillToday, we walked up to Cézanne’s Atelier and past to the Terrain des Peintres, an area about two kilometres further up the hill from the studio where he painted many scenes of Mont Sainte-Victoire. We missed the turnoff to the Jardin des Peintres as we thought the Terrain was a bit further up the road based on a plaque we saw. This turned out to be a serendipitous accident as we walked up the hill for several kilometres along Chemin de la Marguerite to the top (indicated on the map to the left as Placette Signalétique) and enjoyed some sweeping views of the mountain to the east and the city and valley to the west all along the way.

On the way back down the hill, we stopped at a small roadside park (just uphill from the Borne Signal marked with the “Vous etes ici!” (you are here) sign with a great view of the mountain. Miss Cyd and I painted the same scene of Mont Sainte-Victoire side-by-side from the bench, just as Cézanne and Pissarro often did in Paris and the surrounding countryside in places like Pontoise. I sketched the scene with my watercolor pencils, while Cyd used a set of her watercolors to create her rendition. I’m posting my sketch here,even though I am not real happy about the final result after I applied the water brushes to the sketch.

MSV_Sketch_1 MSV_Sketch_2

I feel I put far too much indigo and fuchsia into the blend and turned the rocks purple instead of lavender and brown, which is what I thought I saw in the shifting light. Oh well, live and learn, nothing worth doing is ever easy. I suppose I could call this effort my homage to Cubism, but that would be such BS that I won’t stoop to that excuse.  Miss Cyd is a bit more reticent about posting her work, even though I think her painting is far superior to my own feeble effort. After this pleasant little interlude, we strolled back down the hill and found the steps that led up to the Jardin des Peintres.

Jardin_1We enjoyed both the view of the mountain from the top of the Jardin (after scaling many roughly hewn rock stairs to get to the top) and the various representations of Cézanne’s paintings of the mountain that framed the top tier. Since these paintings were done toward the end of his life (@ 1902-1906), his forays into color, shape, and design that later became identified with the Cubist movement were very evident. MSV_3Our designated tour time at the Atelier was drawing near, so we did not paint here today, but I may make another trek up the hill later in the week with my easel, because the view of the mountain from the top tier of the Jardin, framed by Italian cypress and olive trees is pretty incredible! It is easy to see why Cézanne painted the mountain so many times. As we found out during our sketching session, with the drifting clouds and the shifting afternoon light, the mountain changes persona from one minute to the next. Amazing stuff, indeed!

Atelier_BlogWhile we were waiting for the English-speaking tour to start at the atelier, I whiled away the time outside the gift shop in a shady spot composing today’s blog on my iPhone. Miss Cyd strolled around the grounds and snapped this picture of me on her way back to the tour. I call it my “Channeling Cézanne” photo. Cézanne’s atelier was very interesting and contained his easels, paintboxes, clothing,  and numerous artifacts that he used as inspiration to model many of his still life paintings and watercolors, as well as his mobile painting equipment that he used during his en plein air painting at the top of the hill. Our tour was led by the same guide who took us through the Bibémus Quarries last week. My theory about her interest in keeping tourists in line in an inherently dangerous place proved to be true. She and Cyd uncovered common ground in their graduate work in art history, in painting, and in the museum world. Once they exchanged the secret art historian handshake, she was much more personable and open with us today.Atelier_Guide After the tour, she talked with us for quite a while about Cézanne and other prominent Provençal artists. We found out her name is Christian and she even signed my sketch of Cézanne’s hut at Bibémus, which I thought was pretty cool and adds some value to the sketch, even it is just ephemeral personal value to me.

Tomorrow, we are shifting gears just a bit and meeting a driver early in the morning to go out to Chateau La Coste to take a tour through a garden filled with sculptures by world renowned artists and architects. Our landlord, Jean-Philippe, highly recommended this tour and set it up for us with a car and driver. The architectural sculpture tour is pretty famous and we are looking forward to taking the tour as well as tasting some world class wines and enjoying a good meal at the Chateau.

Ah, fine wine and soft cheeses, yet another good reason to come to France!

Joe and Cyd.

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2 thoughts on “Channeling Cézanne

  1. I love the blog! I figured you’ve been having too much fun for daily picture updates, but I am so glad you and Cyd decided to share your adventure. I am really glad you got to do this together. What a perfect trip.

    P.S. I did share your blog with Tab because I know she won’t rob you 🙂

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  2. Tabitha is busy gallivanting around herself! I think it’s great to travel while you’re young enough to enjoy it, hence the title of my first blog entry. We are having a great time here, hard to believe it’ll be over in two short weeks, then it’s back to the salt mines ;-( Love Dad.

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