Was Cezanne's art groundbreaking

Paul Cézanne, The Sea at L'Estaque, around 1883Back

A wide, blue sea rises unusually steeply like a massive wall and does not leave too much of the sky free. The enormous water surface meanders between cool and warm shades of blue and is divided into a multitude of lively brushstrokes. The roofs and walls of houses are shown as prominent surfaces and do not use detailed designations. This striking abstraction gives them a cube-like, cubic life of their own. It was not until 25 years later that Cubism would take up the division of objects into two-dimensional facets, which once again impressively underscores Cézanne's visionary power. Loosely occupying the slope, nestled between gardens, bushes and isolated trees, the areas enter into exciting dialogues with one another. If we follow the movements of our eyes, they jump from roof to roof, from wall to wall, slide along the edges, lose themselves in the fresh green of nature, feel rhythmic bundles of color that indicate garden walls, paths or small cultivated areas without to describe these in more detail. Remarkable complementary contrasts of green and red color values ​​reinforce the energetic movement behavior of the loose buildings, supported by conspicuous chiaroscuro contrasts.

Within the picture, the large, conspicuously exposed chimney has an unmistakable weight. The chimney is also visible in other, comparable views of Cézanne von L’Estaque, which indicates the industrialization of the place. Cézanne has closely followed the changes in the landscape, as he spent many decades in L’Estaque over and over again. The artist's handling of this symbol of industrialization is interesting. Like Monet, he refrains from evaluating. For Cézanne, the chimney is one of the elements in his depiction. The eye-catching shape, which is in stark contrast to the small-scale houses, must have irritated the public at the time. From today's perspective, these brick chimneys seem almost romantic as a contemporary witness of a phase of industrialization that has already disappeared again. In our scenic silhouette today we are used to completely different structures, especially when we think of wind or nuclear power.

At the time, L’Estaque was a small fishing village at the gates of Marseille. Since his youth, Cézanne stayed here regularly because his mother owned a holiday home there. Years later, the small town was to write art history again: after Georges Braque had seen the large memorial exhibition in honor of Paul Cézanne in Paris in 1907, he followed in the artist's footsteps in 1908 and went to L’Estaque, where he created his groundbreaking picture Houses in L’Estaque (1908, Kunstmuseum Bern), which gave cubism its name: When the picture was shown a short time later at Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler's in Paris - previously rejected by the Salon d'Automne - the critic Louis Vauxcelles spoke disparagingly of "cubes" on several occasions . Braque concentrates on the dissolution of the houses into mighty cuboids and, in contrast to Cézanne, dispenses with the representation of the sea.

Markus Stegmann in: "Chamber of the Heart", Museum Langmatt 2020