Mont Sainte-Victoire, ca. 1904–06

Paul Cézanne, French, 1839–1906

Mont Sainte-Victoire, ca. 1904–06

Oil on canvas
The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long-term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum
photo: Bruce M. White

Mont Sainte-Victoire dominates the countryside near Aix, Cézanne’s home. It is the only such rocky protrusion in the region and is a prominent landmark from many vantage points. Cézanne and his childhood friends, including Émile Zola, developed an intimate relationship with this landscape, which they explored in their youth. At the same time, they were aware of the Provencal revival taking place, a movement that celebrated the region’s native language, arts, and cultural traditions. Mont Sainte-Victoire had a symbolic role in that narrative: it was the site of the Roman defeat of an invading Teutonic army—an event that became the stuff of legend as well as the source of the mountain’s name. Is it any wonder that Cézanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire more than sixty times, even building a studio that afforded breathtaking views of the site?

When he was seventeen years old, Jeffrey Scheuer traveled through the south of France with his grandfather Henry Pearlman, visiting artists and the sites near Aix where Cézanne had painted. He remembers:

I have many memories that form a composite of who he was and his large place in my life. If one memory stands out, I think it was the summer of 1970, when I was in Aix-en-Provence as a student, ostensibly to study French with a group of kids from New York. But, actually, after a day or two of French classes we ended up renting motorbikes and biking around Aix-en-Provence all summer. The final week of the trip Henry showed up and drove around with me and showed me where Cézanne had painted. Took me to Le Tholonet and to le Mont Sainte-Victoire. He introduced me to Leo Marchutz, Sam Weyman, and a couple of his artist friends. He started talking to me about art, and that’s when it started sinking in. I have been back to Aix just once since then, just before 9/11. I was driving out to Le Tholonet with a friend, and I suddenly noticed the way the trees were arching over the road: it was exactly as Cézanne had painted them, and that was an amazing epiphany to me.

Ker Xavier Roussel, 1867-1944. Paul Cezanne painting in Aix-en-Provence, 1906. Private Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library