Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Kojiro Matsukata, Kobe and Paris
Private collection, Germany
Wildenstein & Co., New York
Private collection, since 1957
New York, Wildenstein & Co., For the Connoisseur - Watercolors and Drawings through Five Centuries, 24 September - 31 October 1956, no. 48
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Cézanne, 5 November - 5 December 1959, no. 81, ill.
New York, Knoedler Galleries, Cézanne Watercolours, April 1963, no. 59, ill. p. 54
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Aquarelles de Cézanne, January - March 1971, no. 17
Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Zurich, Kunsthaus, Paul Cézanne Aquarelle 1866-1906, respectively 16 January - 21 March 1982 and 2 April - 31 May 1982, no. 58, ill.
Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Classics of Modern Art, 27 June - 19 September 1999, pp. 50-51, ill. p. 51
Lionello Venturi, Cézanne, Son Art - Son Œuvre, Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 1936, no. 1531
Art News, October 1956, p. 6
Art Digest, October 1956, p. 54.
Arts, November 1959, p. 27, ill.
Theodore Reff, “A New Exhibition of Cézanne”, Burlington Magazine, March 1960, no. 26, p. 118.
John Rewald, Paul Cézanne: The Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, Boston, 1983, no. 489
Watercolour has traditionally been used as a preparatory process for painting on canvas. Until the end of the 19th century, few artists appreciated watercolour the same as oil painting and did not hesitate to see it as an equally noble means of expression. Cézanne belonged to that minority as well.
Cézanne’s interest in watercolor was not due to the spontaneity of the technique, but to the ability to represent with an extremely limited chromatic palette the most complex subjects, within a variety of shades resulting from overlaying brush strokes one on another, being more or less soluble in water. Therefore, when working on his watercolours, Cézanne needed the same time as for the canvases, given that he had to wait patiently for the successive washes to dry. In addition, Cézanne always considered it a point of honor to exhibit the two techniques together, to the little opportunity he had in his lifetime.
As it is often the case with Cézanne, only the long observation of a work reveals the artist’s talent, and this can be seen in the Church at Montigny-sur-Loing. At first glance, the painting has nothing appealing: the colors used are neutral, the landscape looks like a typical French countryside, the geometric composition shows no originality. But after a few minutes of careful observation, cautiousness gives way to surprise and admiration. At first, the viewer realizes that the whole composition needed only three colors: light blue, green and brown. What vividly highlights the invisible design lying beneath, is the successive overlay of the three-colour brush strokes, more or less dissolved. Blue in particular has been used to represent the architectural outlines, giving a pastoral atmosphere to the whole. The second element that sparks interest is perspective. Here, too, Cézanne did not content himself with the easy way, which would obviously be to give a more general view of the village and incorporate the magnificent view of Loing. The landscape itself seems to be of little importance in the end; what comes first is the way the painter perceives it.
The primacy of perception over realism reminds us of what Cézanne used to say: “[…] render the nature with the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, all put into perspective, meaning that each side of the object, of the drawing, heads towards a central point. The parallel lines of the horizon give the width, that is, a part of nature […] The vertical lines to the horizon give the depth. And for us humans, nature has more depth than width”. The houses and church of Montigny-sur-Loing seem to conform with this lesson in our watercolour, in which we recognize the geometric shapes so important to master’s eyes.