Thursday, 15 April 2010

Stepping into Cezanne’s studio

Arriving in Aix en Provence, Jules and I are immediately struck by the beauty of this southern French township. It has all of the things you imagine a French provincial village might have …classic architecture, stately fountains and quaint cobblestone laneways. In short, it’s a pretty nice place to live! With that in mind, it is not totally surprising that the great Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne (who was born here in 1839) chose to live and work here throughout his life. The building that housed his original studio can be found in the centre of town, although little evidence remains except a small plaque on the wall. However, his final studio still remains and can be viewed pretty much in its original state. The studio was built 1901, once his status as an important Modernist had been established. Cezanne chose a nice patch of land, high on a hillside overlooking the little township, while also catching the distant view of Mont Sainte Victoire (the subject of many his paintings). After a short walk out of town and up the hill, we found it hidden away amongst the suburbs, which have long since engulfed the area. This is so different to the early photos that we later view, when Cezanne’s studio stood very much alone amongst olive fields. As we enter the gates we are suddenly transformed back to Cezanne’s time, stepping into his rambling garden, which was very much loved by the artist. The studio stands as it did in his day and is a relatively modest two storey stone building. Following Cezanne’s death, it was locked away for many years and so today remains very much as it was toward the end of his life. We make our way up the stairs to the studio itself and notice Cezanne’s bowler hat and coat still hanging in the same place the master artist had left them over a hundred years ago. Large north facing studio windows allow natural light to flood into the room, which is filled with familiar objects, so often seen in Cezanne’s later still-life paintings. Today, the masterpieces are gone…tucked away safely in national galleries around the world. While the studio itself, now quite sparse and humble in appearance, still remains a significant place as it was witness to the birth of many great works. It is also a room that attracted many famous visitors. Some of them prominent artists of the day such as Matisse and Picasso, but also in later years less anticipated figures such as the likes of Marilyn Monroe. Even today and despite the many thousands of visitors, the studio has a particularly calm and tranquil feel and on a warm summers day it is not to difficult to imagine how Cezanne became so inspired. The colours and the clear air remain, as does the special charm of southern France and in particular, Aix en Provence.

No comments:

Post a Comment