Abandoned House near Aix-en-Provence


Paul Cézanne ( French, 1839 - 1906 )

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General Description

Paul Cézanne's landscape paintings are often centered on houses, virtually all empty, abandoned, or ruined. But with the irony common in Cézanne's oeuvre, these dwellings provide a stable center to the landscapes in which they are placed, almost as if they will be re-populated later. The rugged canvas represents an inaccessible house, its door closed, its windows shuttered. Its isolation is further enforced by Cézanne's decision to deny the viewer any access. The blank doorway is blocked by a stone wall and a large earthen mound, and no pathway is visible. The area surrounding the house is neglected and overgrown.

Abandoned House near Aix-en-Provence is among the most carefully composed paintings Cézanne made in the mid-1880s, when he combed the countryside near his hometown of Aix-en-Provence for rural motifs. In painting it, Cézanne borrowed from his teacher Camille Pissarro a standard compositional device, the simple division of the canvas by thirds and halves, both vertically and horizontally. Cézanne used brushwork called the "constructive stroke" to build his composition; these vertical and diagonal strokes were applied in groups, as if they were pictorial "bricks." In this way, both the subject of the painting and its pictorial language relate to architecture.

Adapted from

Richard Brettell, Impressionist Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 90-91.

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