Monday, April 27, 2009
Day 9 - Aix en Provence and Cézanne
We are told that this town has a dual identity which includes water and art. It is also a town with rich culture and it spans different eras. It is colourful and when the sun shines, the stone of facades is golden, the fountain a transparent greenish blue and the shade of trees deep on the ground. In a region where water is scarce and precious, Aix is supplied by many springs. In the late 19th century, works on the Verdon canal and the Zola dam brought water in abundance through the basins of fountains.
Aix has an old city and a new city and the ring road is built on the site of the former ramparts which circle the old town separating it from the new city. There is an historic landmark called the Cours Mirabeau which is wonderful strolling walk through greenery punctuated by fountains. On either side of the ring road built in the 17th century, the leading families of nobility built elegant homes. There are magnificent hotels and cafes here.
The most famous artist of Aix was Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906), and the city honoured his memory with 2006, the entire centenary year of his death being dedicated to him. Around the international "Cézanne in Provence" exhibition, a multitude of events painted the city in the painter's colours and commemorated his intimate relationship with the landscapes and light of Provence. Cézanne studied law according to his father's wishes but art emerged as his premier passion during his Bourbon boarding college where he met Emil Zola. His father agreed to his aspirations and he pursued art studies in Paris where he also met painters Pissaro, Monet and Renoir. He met Hortense Fiquet who became his companion and wife, and by whom he had a son, Paul. He systematically explored and painted the Aixois countryside. "I go into the country every day. The motifs are beautiful and I spend my days better here than elsewhere".(Letter from Paul Cézanne to his son, Aix 09/22/1906).
In the final period, the twenty years from 1886 until his death, Cezanne pushed toward a conclusion, generally in the direction of increased abstraction. In the last decade of his life, Cezanne began to be well known. By age and by association, Cezanne was one of the impressionists. He was five years younger than Degas, a year older than Monet, two years older than Renoir. He was a solitary man, but insofar as he had friends at all, he found them among his impressionist contemporaries. In fact some people say that Cezanne was the most revolutionary painter since the dawn of the Renaissance.