Avenue of Chestnut Trees at the Jas de Bouffan, around 1880's
A country estate on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence dating from the eighteenth century, the Jas de Bouffan had been in the possession of the artist’s family since 1859. Cézanne liked to spend extended periods in this region working in a studio he had set up for himself there, and later in the vicinity of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. He had already begun using the estate’s house and garden as motifs for his paintings, drawings and watercolours in the mid 1860s. In this composition, Cézanne responds to the rigorous, symmetrical arrangement of the avenue of chestnuts and uses the characteristic qualities of watercolour to lend the familiar scene an expression both classical and contemporary in nature. Here he seems virtually to have subordinated his intense perception of reality to the compositional laws of surface and space, line and colour. From a slightly elevated vantage point in front of a fountain cut off by the picture’s right-hand edge, the artist describes an almost architectonic sequence of tree trunks in a stony shade of grey. Above this balanced geometric structure, he defines the actual pictorial space by spreading out voluminous treetops composed of rhythmic brushstrokes that alternate with blank patches of paper.
Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK