Mont Sainte-Victoire is a mountain in Provence (pro-VAHNCE), the region in southeastern France where Cézanne was born and spent most of his life. It can be seen from a hillside near a studio called Les Lauves (lay loave) that Cézanne built in 1902. The mountain’s name, which translates as “Mountain of Holy Victory,” was associated with a celebrated victory by Provence’s ancient Roman inhabitants against an invading army. Cézanne painted more than sixty versions of what he called “his” mountain, yet none of the paintings looks exactly the same.
In these paintings, Cézanne often sketched the railway bridge on the Aix-Marseille line at the Arc River Valley in the center on the right side of the picture. Especially, in Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley (1885–1887), he depicted a moving train on this bridge.
Only half a year after the opening of the Aix-Marseille line on October 15, 1877, in a letter to Émile Zola dated April 14, 1878, Cézanne praised the Mont Sainte-Victoire, which he viewed from the train while passing through the railway bridge at Arc River Valley, as a “beau motif (beautiful motif)”, and, in about that same year, he began the series wherein he topicalized this mountain.
A few yards from there, he painted Jourdan’s cottage. On 15 October 1906, a thunderstorm struck. Cézanne stayed and painted in the rain for a few hours, and then had a fainting fit. « We brought him back to Rue Boulegon on a laundry cart, and two men had to lift him into his bed. Early the next morning, he went down to the Lauves studio garden to work on a portrait of Vallier under the lime tree. He came back a dying man… ». Cézanne wanted to die whilst painting. He passed away a week later during the night of 22 to 23 October, from pleurisy.
As part of its policy to develop the Cézanne sites, the city of Aix-en-Provence has created the painters’ ground (terrain des peintres), now within the Marguerite Estate. Opposite the mountain which, from this angle, becomes a figurehead, ten panels depict the main « Sainte-Victoires » painted by Cézanne from Chemin de la Marguerite.
- Mont Sainte-Victoire
Paul Cézanne, French, 1839 – 1906
Made in France, Europe
Oil on canvas
28 3/4 x 36 3/16 inches (73 x 91.9 cm)
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The George W. Elkins Collection, 1936