Cezanne, Rocks near the caves below the Chateau Noir, 1904

Paul Cezanne, Rocks near the caves below the Chateau Noir, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 65 cm. x 54 cm., Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France, image: WikiPaintings

This painting by Paul Cezanne caught me by surprise when I saw it. Forms seemed to float and vibrate against each other. Its deep blues sang against the ochre yellow and orange and the beautiful smokey greys of the rocks. It felt so complete and it seemed to speak as one whole symphony.

The balance of the negative spaces against the rock and trees is achieved mainly through the intensity of the blue sky colour against the broader plains. A sense of motion is created at the edges of the forms through the irregular, blocky rendering. The darks seem to indicate deep shadows under the trees and a hint of the unknown, of uncertainty on the steep path ahead. Despite the rocky obstacles there is a vertical thrust upwards from the lower right into the trees that is uplifting, almost exhilarating. The painting is a celebration of being in the natural world. Painted two years before his death, this is the solitary, unified vision of a man who had worked all his life to describe the experience of seeing that which we often pass without a second thought.

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