Paul Cézanne, Trees and Rocks in the Park of the Château Noir, circa 1904Back

Paul Cézanne
Trees and Rocks in the Park of the Château Noir

circa 1904

Oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm
Museum Langmatt, Baden
Inv.-no. 124


Of all the pictures in the collection of Sidney and Jenny Brown, this is the farthest removed from the world of objects. While we might think we can make out the ruins of the Château Noir somewhere in the depths of this dark wood, it is not the central motif of the picture. Instead, the focus is on the trees and rocks; in other words, upon a relatively unspectacular sample of nature that is not necessarily “picture-worthy” by the traditional arts standards of the epoch (at least not as the main motif). Cézanne valued the park of the Château Noir as a place where he could paint undisturbed. The trees and rocks might in theory be located in many other places in the South of France. In reality, however, Cézanne is concerned with something different: with design principles that go beyond external nature.

In this interweaving of stones, soil, and plants, Cézanne saw a fascinating dynamic rhythm of form and colors, which he strengthened in a targeted way through small color fields with the properties of surfaces. By additionally concentrating the diversity of colors into the triad of green, blue, and orange/ocher so typical of his artworks, he succeeds in detaching the motifs from their ties to the world of objects on the level of color also. These are two revolutionary artistic decisions that make his pictures unmistakable, anticipating the early Cubism of just a few years later. The independence of colors and forms from the object that they describe, the freedom that they achieve to deviate from the traditional description of the motif in order to follow their own physical and emotional energy; these are the things that mark out the paintings of Paul Cézanne and make him the most important and most innovative of all the Impressionists. It marked a significant turning point for the future of painting.

When we return to the picture, our gaze becomes lost in the right-hand half of the picture, in the thickets of the woods. It is difficult to distinguish between the tree trunks and branches, the foliage and undergrowth, the rocks and soil. The individual plant and the individual stone give way in favor of the vibrant weave of color. The artist is not concerned with the individuality of the trees, but with their visual force as diagonal elements, their parallel sequence that reinforces the rhythm. Cézanne looks through the trees, so to speak, to see the structure of nature. The layers of rocks in the left-hand half of the picture cross the diagonal arrangement of the trees, tearing our gaze into the depths of the picture. There, in the right-hand half of the picture’s center, Cézanne has definitively parted company with the subject matter, allowing us to sink into abstract blue, green, and gray tones. Here, color is freed from its traditional, centuries-old task of describing the world. Instead, we experience this wood as a place of yearning that offers us the possibility of immersing ourselves in the secret of the eternal coming into being and passing away of nature.

Markus Stegmann in: «Herzkammer», Museum Langmatt 2020