Nestled on the Lauves hill in Aix en Provence, Cézanne’s studio saw the creation of dozens of masterpieces, today found in the world’s best museums, such as the famous "Grandes Baigneuses" or the many "Sainte Victoire". A studio almost all intact, the private life of the "father of modern art" still dwells there and the mysteries of his creativity hang in the air.
2000 francs: that’s what Cézanne spent in 1901 to acquire an old farm and 7000 m² of land in the commune of Aix en Provence. Situated on the Lauves hill, planted with olive and fig trees, the Verdon canal running alongside it, the land offers a unique panorama of the Sainte Victoire mountain. Cézanne ordered, according to his own plans, the construction of a studio. In September 1902, after ten months of work, he moved in and brought with him all his dearest possessions.
Set behind a wooden gate, in a garden "whose slope loses itself in a stream", the residence is a Provençal country house that the sun seems to have baked. On the ground floor, there are two lounges, a lavatory, a kitchen and a small pantry. Upstairs is the studio itself, lit from the south by two big windows and from the north by a glass roof. Here he would work every day during the last four years of his life.
Each day, in any weather, he left his apartment on the Rue Boulegon, which he shared with his wife, Hortense. From six in the morning until five in the afternoon, he worked in his "big studio in the country". "I’m better here than in the city," he wrote to his art dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1903. "In every corner, the canvases pile up, still on their stretchers or rolled up. (...) His studio was a big mess," noted the writers Rivière and Schnerb, entertained by Cézanne in 1905. The studio in Lauves saw the painter’s last works come into the world: the Grandes Baigneuses, the portrait of the gardener Vallier, views of the garden, still lifes...
Cézanne's studio in Aix en Provence
The house Bastide des Lauves was Cézanne's studio
The Terrain des Peintres garden, Les Lauves
Guided tours of Cézanne's studio
The Lauves studio and Cézanne's personal belongings
Paul Cézanne posing in the front his painting The Bathers
The Bathers by Paul Cézanne
In the painter's private life
Nobody but himself entered this studio of silence and light. He withdrew to his shelter, a place of contemplation and work where we can still feel, with intensity, the presence of the painter.
On rainy or very cold days, he stayed there, amongst his familiar objects, which became the subjects of his still lifes : some porcelain, bottles, vases, paper or fabric flowers, fruit, apples above all, as well as skulls and the small, plaster cupid. "We think that a sugar bowl has no countenance, no soul. But it changes every day". wrote Cézanne to the poet Joachim Gasquet. "You have to know how to handle them, mollify them, those sirs there. Those glasses, those plates, they talk to each other. These objects arouse us. A sugar bowl tells us as much about ourselves and our art as does a Chardin or a Monticelli".
In good weather, he went out to paint "on the motif". Sheltered by his hat or a parasol, he set up his easel across from the Sainte Victoire mountain, at the top of the Lauves hill, the highest viewpoint for his cherished mountain. "There will be treasures to carry away from this region that have not yet found an interpreter worthy of the richness that it holds" he wrote to Choquet, a civil servant and art lover who had become Cezanne’s friend.
Close by stands an olive tree, already noticed by Cézanne before he even bought the land. During the construction work, he built a small wall around it, to protect it. Cézanne would touch it, speak to it, sometimes kiss it. " It’s a living being, I love it like an old friend. It knows everything about my life and offers me excellent advice". He wrote to Joachim Gasquet.
On October 15, 1906, as he was painting Jourdan’s cottage, located near the studio, Cézanne was caught in a storm. He continued to paint, and soaked to the bones, he fainted. Cézanne wanted to die while painting. He passed away eight days later, afflicted by pleurisy.
After his death, the studio, closed and forgotten, went to sleep with the every day life of the painter. His possessions remained there: painting materials, clothing, objects for his still lifes. In 1921, Marcel Joannon – known as Marcel Provence – a reviver of Provençal verse, purchased it. Fervent admirer of the former owner, he only lived in the downstairs. He left the studio upstairs just as Cezanne had left it, determined to preserve a "precious heritage, the spiritual richness attached to these wall, to this garden".
"Everything evoked so strongly the presence of the painter that I was disconcerted," noted Adrien Chappuis after visiting the studio. "My usual understanding of the artist suddenly seemed out of place. The image of Cézanne conceived through his paintings and books – it all disappeared with the shock of the presence of this very simple and slightly irritable man, who worked, lived, suffered here".
From then on the property of the Aix Tourist Office, the Cézanne Studio Museum welcomes visitors who wish to bring themselves closer to the man who was Cézanne. This is a place where the painter’s human and everyday simplicity still lives on. The Paul Cézanne Studio does not house any of the artist’s works. It is Cézanne himself that we come to see.
Atelier Paul Cézanne - 9, avenue Paul Cézanne - 13090 Aix en Provence
+33 (0)4 42 21 06 53http://www.atelier-cezanne.com