Country House by a River
Oil on canvas
81 x 65 cm
Gift of Yad Hanadiv, Jerusalem, from the collection of Miriam Alexandrine de Rothschild, daughter of the first Baron Edmond de Rothschild
Accession number: B66.1043
The second half of the 1880s was a particularly difficult time for Cézanne. In 1885 he appears to have had an abortive romantic entanglement, which left him agitated and unbalanced. Than, in 1886, his childhood friend and strongest source of support, Emile Zola, published L’Oeuvre, a novel that depicted a Cézannelike painter who failed to realize his genius and ended his life in suicide. The artist subsequently severed all ties with Zola, but the loss of that friendship was a severe blow. Shortly thereafter, he bowed to family pressure and married Hortense Fiquet, the mother of his son and his mistress of many years. The liaison, however, had long since ceased to be a love relationship and the two lived apart most of the time, before and after the wedding. A few months later, in October 1886, Cézanne’s domineering father died. At Jas de Bouffan, the family estate in Aix-en-Provence, where he resided with his mother and his strong-minded, unmarried sister Marie, and even during his sojourns in Paris during the last years of the decade, he lived in almost total isolation. The onset of diabetes in 1890 further contributed to his unstable state. Formerly anticlerical, Cézanne now returned to the Church.
Despite these personal upheavals, and being in the main cut off from the art world, Cézanne pursued his painterly experiments, perfecting his methods with an obsessive devotion to the task. In 1890, he took an extended trip of five months with Hortense and his son, Paul, to Switzerland. It was the only time he ever left France and the experience seems not to have pleased him. It was probably before or after his return that he painted Country House by a River. Nothing of the emotional aspects of the previous five years finds it way into this serene work, which is a model of carefully constructed and balanced solidity.