From 1902 to his death in 1906, Cézanne worked every morning in this studio that he designed. Here, he produced paintings that hang in museums all over the world.
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Monsieur François Fraisset, museum curator, gives us the tour.
For his dream studio, Cézanne bought a very large property (7,000 square meters) in November 1901. He became an amateur architect for the occasion, because it is he who designed the studio to fit his needs: a ground floor for living quarters and an large, airy studio above. (Later in the interview, we learn that Cézanne lived alone in Aix because Hortense Cézanne prefers city life. She and Paul, Cézanne’s son, spend most of their time in Paris or Marseille.)
The studio is on the second floor, where enormous windows let in natural light. Thanks to these windows, Cézanne was able to have the same lighting conditions as when he was outside, painting in the open air.
Here is why the walls are this particular shade of gray. And a quote from Cézanne, who said that, for a painting session to be perfect, the sky needed to be light gray.
Cézanne spent the last 4 years of his life painting here. We think that he meant to live on the lower floor, but, in the end, he used it to store his paintings.
Since he needed the lower floor to store paintings, he lived in a rented apartment in the center of town, on rue Boulegon. His daily routine: leave the apartment at 5AM headed to the studio where he works until 10:30 or 11AM. Lunch, then off to paint outside.
So, if he worked here for only 4 years, is this studio really important? Yes, because it is here that he produced his final masterpieces, the Grandes Baigneuses among them. We are reminded of the immense size of these paintings by the fact that we can still see the large opening in the wall used to get them out of the studio!
A mention of painting materials still in the studio. And an anecdote about how hard it was to pose for Cézanne. Other than his son and wife, there were few people who posed more than once for Cézanne.
Not much is needed to preserve the ambiance of the studio during Cézanne’s time here. Oh yes – one thing: the museum staff regularly replaces the apples used for still-lifes. But everything else is here: easels, tubes of paint, brushes. Cézanne could walk back in today and feel as if nothing had changed.
Objects on hand left by Cézanne after his death that correspond to what he described as the 3 basic geometrical figures: sphere, cylinder, and cone.
Because the custom at the time was to burn the everyday objects of a deceased person, it is surprising that we have all of these objects left by Cézanne. Mr. Fraisset explains why in this section.
The studio, left untouched for 15 years after Cézanne’s death is bought by a local art lover who offers the studio as a Christmas present to himself. He is surprised to find all of Cézannes paiting materials intact and knows that he should leave them intact.
This second owner dies without heirs and local real estate developers take interest in the property. They plan to divide the garden up for new housing sites.
At this point, as Cézanne’s studio risks disappearing, John Rewald and James Lord promote the idea of saving the studio and encourage other art lovers, museum curators, and friends to donate to the cause.
The museum opens to the public in 1954. The most famous visitor of 1955: Marilyn Monroe, who wrote in the guestbook, “A lovely visit.”
Though this is the region’s smallest museum, it is the region’s most-visited museum! It is interesting the contrast the high prices of Cézanne’s paintings at auction with the hard time he had showing his paintings during his lifetime. A reminder that Picasso and Matisse considered Cézanne to be the father of all of the painters of the 20th century.
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