Seeing Nature: Cézanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire

With just two weeks left to experience Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, we have been posting essay excerpts from the exhibition catalog written by Portland Art Museum curators.

La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cézanne
By Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings

La Montagne Sainte-Victoire is a testament to the artist’s quest for structure. The massive limestone ridge rises over Cézanne’s native Aix-en-Provence, the most prominent feature of the Arc valley. The mountain was the focus of much religious, historical, and scientific interest throughout the centuries, and held a particularly powerful, almost scared, significance to the artist. This painting is among the most vibrantly colored of Cézanne’s views of the mountain. Using short, parallel brushstrokes of unblended color, Cézanne built up the composition in a series of architectonic planes. The green foreground gives way to the middle ground of homes tucked into the hillside amid trees and bushes rendered in patches of green, yellows, and brown. The formidable mass of the mountain, constructed with rhythmic daubs of lilac, blue, and patches of pink, rises majestically above the valley.