Landscapes Behind Cézanne

Paul Cézanne, French, 1839–1906. Pine Tree in Front of the Caves above Château Noir, ca. 1900. Watercolor and graphite on cream wove paper. Princeton University Art Museum, anonymous gift

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) is widely acknowledged to have transformed landscape painting, most radically in his late watercolors, which do not so much attempt to copy the actual appearance of a scene as to translate it into self-sufficient sequences of patches and lines of a restricted range of vivid colors. This installation of some twenty works, drawn entirely from the Museum’s collections, juxtaposes such watercolors by Cézanne with landscapes drawn, printed, or painted on paper by earlier artists. It reveals the extent to which Cézanne made use of standard types of landscape depictions—close-up views, woodland panoramas, rocky landscapes, wide vistas, landscapes with built structures in them—that had been in use for many centuries, but also suggests that Cézanne goes a step further, explicitly acknowledging that what is real in art is different and independent from the actuality of nature.

In addition to Cézanne’s oil painting Mont Sainte-Victoire, the exhibition includes a pair of watercolors by the artist, one of which changes weekly for reasons of preservation. (Cézanne’s watercolors held at Princeton are renowned for the freshness of their colors, which can only be preserved by limiting their exposure to light.) For a full list of watercolors and the week they will be on display, please consult the checklist.


Landscapes Behind Cézanne has been made possible by the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Curatorial Leadership Fund.