Morning View of L'Estaque Against the Sunlight
Oil on canvas
60.5 x 92.5 cm
Gift of The Jerusalem Foundation from the Sam Spiegel Collection
Accession number: B97.0482
L’Estaque, a small manufacturing town on the Mediterranean near Marseille, has attracted many artists. Cézanne painted his early landscapes at L’Estaque in the 1860s, took refuge there in 1870 to escape conscription during the Franco-Prussian War, and thereafter continued to work intermittently in the area. He was at L’Estaque when Renoir, returning from an Italian sojourn, came to visit in 1882, and it was around this time that he painted Morning View of L’Estaque against the Sunlight.
The thinly painted surface of semi-transparent pastel shades gives this canvas a fluid, watercolorlike quality. Significant areas of exposed ground further enhance its overall blond tonality. In this way, Cézanne deftly transmits the heat and strong light of the south of France, in which color tends to be drained from objects, producing a washed-out appearance. Throughout, the artist’s pencil sketch remains visible, enabling the viewer to see how frequently he changed the position of objects as he painted them.
Twenty-five years later, in 1907, Georges Braque would journey to L’Estaque to paint his first, groundbreaking Cubist landscapes. Having read Cézanne’s letters he undoubtedly remembered the famous dictum, “treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone . . . ”1 In a conscious attempt to understand the ramifications of Cézanne’s innovations, Braque had returned to the place where works such as Morning View were painted, thus forging a clear link between the older artist’s pioneering inventions and the revolutionary avant-garde of the twentieth century.