Cézanne and the Steam Railway (3)
: His Railway Subjects in Aix-en-Provence

Tomoki Akimaru (Art Historian)
Below is an abstract of my doctoral dissertation.



Fig. 1 Paul Cézanne The Ferry at Bonnières summer of 1866

 Paul Cézanne: The railway painter.
 Conventionally, it is told that since Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) was the painter who loves nature, he escaped from a noisy, modern Paris that developed rapidly and painted instead amid the pure nature of Aix-en-Provence, his country hometown. Although this discourse is true to an extent, it has failed to capture Cézanne’s entire essence; if his life and works are correctly investigated without prejudice, it becomes clear that Cézanne is “a painter of modern life” as well as “a painter who loves nature.”
 In the foregoing paragraph, we saw that Cézanne, who painted The Ferry at Bonnières (summer of 1866) (Fig. 1), topicalizing the railway station, telegraph pole, and electric wires, was the first among impressionist painters to depict the steam railway. In other words, among impressionist painters, Cézanne had the most acute sensibility with regard to the steam railway, which was the typical subject of “modernité” (modernity) in those days.
 Actually, Cézanne moved around France on a steam train from the 1860s to his later years. Camille Pissarro’s letter to his son Lucien on January 20, 1896, shows that Cézanne took a train on the Paris-Aix line to travel between the two points.

After numerous tokens of affection and southern warmth, Oller was confident that he could follow his friend Cézanne to Aix-en-Provence. It was arranged to meet the next day on the P. L. M. train. “In the third class compartment,” said friend Cézanne. So on the next day, Oller was on the platform, straining his eyes, peering everywhere. No sign of Cézanne! The trains pass. Nobody! Finally Oller said to himself, “He has gone, thinking I left already,” made a rapid decision, and took the train. Arrived in Lyon, he had 500 francs stolen from his purse at the hotel. Not knowing what to do, he sent a telegram to Cézanne just in case. And Cézanne was, indeed, at home. He had left in a first class compartment! (1)

 Moreover, Aix, which was Cézanne’s base throughout his life, is a railway town. In fact, the railway station (Fig. 2) near the main street of Aix connected three train lines. Chronologically, the railway company P. L. M. opened the train line from Aix to Rognac on October 10, 1856 (25 km) (Fig. 3, Fig. 4), from Aix to Meyrargues on January 31, 1870 (26 km), and from Aix to Marseille on October 15, 1877 (34 km) (2).



Fig. 2 Aix-en-Provence station,
photographed by the author on August 26, 2006.

Fig. 3 The railway signal on the Aix-Rognac line,
photographed by the author on August 23, 2006.


Fig. 4 The Mont Sainte-Victore seen over the Aix-Rognac line,
filmed by the author on August 24, 2006.

 It is remarkable that Jas de Bouffan, Cézanne’s residence in Aix, was situated near the train lines from Aix to Rognac and to Meyrargues. Therefore, in a span of about 40 years, whenever Cézanne stayed at this house, which contained his atelier, he must have been conscious of the steam locomotive that roared past his house.
 Furthermore, it is important to note that, while he lived in Aix, Cézanne drew many railway subjects in various ways.
 First, Cézanne sketched the railway cutting on the Aix-Rognac line as visible from his house garden about 100 meters away (Fig. 5) to create The Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Railway Cutting (c. 1870) (Fig. 6).
 Second, in his preceding works, he painted not only the railway cutting but also the railway signal on the same line (Fig. 7): The Railway Cutting (1867–1868) (Fig. 8) and The Railway Cutting (1867–1870) (Fig. 9).
 Third, The Railway Cutting (1867–1870) (Fig. 10) depicts the railroad as well as the railway cutting.
 These paintings show his enthusiasm as he tried to topicalize the steam railway in his early years in Aix.



Fig. 6 Paul Cézanne
The Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Railway Cutting c. 1870


Fig. 5 A photograph of the scene in Fig. 6,
photographed by John Rewald around 1935.

Fig. 8 Paul Cézanne The Railway Cutting 1867–1868

Fig. 7 A photograph of the scene
in Fig. 8 and Fig. 9,
photographed by John Rewald around 1935.


Fig. 9 Paul Cézanne The Railway Cutting 1867–1870

Fig. 10 Paul Cézanne
The Railway Cutting 1867–1870

 In addition, Cézanne depicted the railway bridge on the Aix-Marseille line. In fact, he sketched the railway bridge that spans across the Arc River and the valley in a suburb of Aix (Fig. 11-Fig. 13), as shown in The Mont Sainte-Victoire and Large Pine (c. 1887) (Fig. 14), The Pine before the Arc Valley (1883–1885) (Fig. 15), The Viaduct of the Arc Valley (1883–1885) (Fig. 16), The Mont Sainte-Victoire (1892–1895) (Fig. 17), The Mont Sainte-Victoire with Viaduct (1885–1887) (Fig. 18), and many other paintings.
 Cézanne also painted a steam locomotive on the Aix-Marseille line. Actually, he depicted the train passing through the railway bridge at Arc valley (Fig. 19), as shown in The Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Bellevue (1882–1885) (Fig. 20), The Mont Sainte-Victoire and Large Pine (1886–1887) (Fig. 21), and The Arc Valley (c. 1885) (Fig. 22).
 In addition, the railroad of the Aix-Rognac line passes under this sketching place (Fig. 23, Fig. 24)



Fig. 11 The Railway Bridge at the Arc valley
(photographed by the author on August 23, 2006)


Fig. 12 The Mont Sainte-Victoire
seen over the railway bridge at the Arc valley
(filmed by the author on August 25, 2006)


Fig. 13 A photograph of the scene in Fig. 14,
photographed by the author on August 24, 2006.


Fig. 14 Paul Cézanne The Mont Sainte-Victoire and Large Pine c. 1887


Fig. 15 Paul Cézanne The Pine before the Arc Valley 1883–1885


Fig. 16 Paul Cézanne The Viaduct of the Arc Valley 1883–1885


Fig. 17 Paul Cézanne The Mont Sainte-Victoire 1892–1895


Fig. 18 Paul Cézanne The Mont Sainte-Victoire with Viaduct 1885–1887


Fig. 19 A photograph of the scene in Fig. 20,
photographed by the author on August 24, 2006.


Fig. 20 Paul Cézanne The Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Bellevue 1882–1885


Fig. 21 Paul Cézanne The Mont Sainte-Victoire and Large Pine 1886–1887


Fig. 22 Paul Cézanne The Arc Valley c. 1885


Fig. 23 The Mont Sainte-Victore seen from Bellevue (Montbriant) and the railroad of the Aix-Rognac line,
photographed by the author on August 24, 2006.


Fig. 24 The Mont Sainte-Victore seen from Bellevue (Montbriant) and the railroad of the Aix-Rognac line,
filmed by the author on August 25, 2006.

 Surprisingly, Cézanne even enjoyed taking an electric train on the Aix-Marseille line, including the railway bridge at Arc valley.
 Émile Bernard, who took the train on this line, which was electrified on June 28, 1903 (3), together with Cézanne at the end of March 1905, described the event in his “Memories of Paul Cézanne” (1907) as follows:

As we were finishing our luncheon, he dismissed the carriage and announced that he was going to Marseilles to see “the rest of the family.” We went off to the tram and, during two hours of torrid heat, we chatted cheerfully. His radiant mien, healthy appearance, and carefree attitude delighted me (4).

 From these facts, it is certain that, even in Aix, the steam (or even electric) railway had already become a part of Cézanne’s daily life, and, as a painter of modern life, he was passionate about railway subjects such as the railway cutting, railway signal, railroad, railway bridge, and steam locomotive.


 (1) Camille Pissarro, Lettres à son fils Lucien, présentées avec l’assistance de Lucien Pissarro par John Rewald, Paris: Albin Michel, 1950, p.396. (Camille Pissarro, Letters to his son Lucien, edited with the assistance of Lucien Pissarro by John Rewald, translated from the French manuscript by Lionel Abel, Boston: MFA Publications, 2002, p. 280.)
 (2) See Wikia (http://trains.wikia.com/wiki/Aix-en-Provence) (Last retrieved on September 1, 2011)
 (3) Marcel Provence, Le Cours Mirabeau: trois siecles d’histoire 1651-1951, Aix-en-Provence: Éditions du Bastidon Antonelle, 1976, p. 82.
 (4) Émile Bernard, “Souvenirs sur Paul Cézanne” (1907), in Conversations avec Cézanne, édition critique présentée par P. M. Doran, Paris: Macula, 1978, p. 77. (Émile Bernard, “Memories of Paul Cézanne” (1907), in Michael Doran (ed.), Conversations with Cézanne, translated by Julie Lawrence Cochran, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: The University of California Press, 2001, p. 77.)
 
 (Fig. 5 and Fig. 7 was quated from John Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.)

 This is a revised edition of “New Viewpoint on Art: Cézanne and Steam Railway (3)” published in Nihon Art Journal, May/June, 2012.


 Cézanne and the Steam Railway
 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)

Copyright (C) Tomoki Akimaru.All rights reserved.

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