Cezanne comes home at last to Provence

9th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France, June 9, 2006 (AFP) - Some 100 years after he died, Paul Cézanne is returning home to the Provence which he loved and immortalised in his paintings, but which largely shunned him in both life and death.

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France, June 9, 2006 (AFP) - Some 100 years after he died, Paul Cézanne is returning home to the Provence which he loved and immortalised in his paintings, but which largely shunned him in both life and death.

A major exhibition of some 117 Cezanne paintings opens on Friday at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence, showing off the works of the man deemed the father of modern art, a bridge between the impressionist and cubist movements.

*sidebar1*For his great-grandson, Philippe Cézanne, the exhibition marks a homecoming and an end to the rift between Cezanne the artist and his native Provence, in southwestern France, in the year marking the centenary of his death.

"The family left Aix-en-Provence in 1906 after the painter's death. My grandfather emptied the studio and took it all away to the southern Paris suburbs. After that there was a sort of disenchantment between Aix and Cezanne," he told AFP.

Until the arrival of the Granet's present curator, Denis Coutagne, "they didn't want to hang any paintings by Cézanne on their picture rails," he said.

"This exhibition finally marks Cezanne's return to Aix in all his splendour."

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres are due to visit the exhibition on Friday, which gathers some 85 paintings and 32 drawings from museums across the world.

It arrives in southern France fresh from its showing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and is organised by subject matter rather than chronologically.

"The originality of this exhibition, and its major interest, lies in the fact that it deals only with Provence," said Thomas Grenon, general administrator for the National Museums body, which has co-produced the exhibition which lasts until September 17.

"We see how the light and countryside structured Cezanne's paintings. And we see the artist's evolution from his impressionist touch to his more modern, more contemporary touch."

Philippe Cézanne says it is the most moving exhibition he has yet seen of the work of his great grandfather, who was born on January 19, 1839 and died on October 23, 1906 from pneumonia, after being soaked in a rain storm while out walking on his beloved mountain Sainte Victoire.

"Usually when a museum organises a retrospective they show you a selection of the artists' work from the beginning of his career to his death. But here there is a unity. It's a walk in Cezanne's footsteps in Provence," he told AFP.

The exhibition is a pictorial journey through Cezanne's favourite haunts, from his family estate of Jas de Bouffan, where he painted intermittently over four decades, to his house at L'Estaque, a small fishing village near Marseille, where he captured the brilliant light and vivid color of the Mediterranean coast.

Many of these places are opening for the first time to the public to mark Cezanne year in France, and a series of walks have been organised on the Sainte Victoire mountain featured in some 80 of his paintings.

Provence is gearing up for a major tourist invasion to mark the centenary, with some 300,000 visitors expected to take in the exhibition in the Musée Granet, some 40 percent expected to come from abroad, including Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Revenue from the sales of catalogues and related souvenirs is expected to bring in some EUR 800,000 euros for the museum.

"Americans are very familiar with Cézanne's paintings, but they want to see the light in Provence and visit the places where the painter went in order to have an emotional experience," said Bertrand Collette, the head of the office in charge of organising the Year of Cezanne.

"The Year of Cézanne is not just a marketing stunt, it's a demonstration of art," he added.

"It was not just Arles or Aix who rejected painters like Van Gogh and Cezanne, but French society at the time. It is to fight this rejection of contemporary artists that we invited many to take part in the Year of Cézanne."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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