During this period Cézanne’s creative life was centered on Paris, where he met the group of artists who were to be labeled Impressionists after 1874. In Provence the most frequently recurring setting was the family manor, the Jas de Bouffan
, and in particular its main drawing room. Here Cézanne painted directly on the wall, intensely romantic scenes, or large-scale landscapes close in style to the decorative compositions popular in the 18th century. This period came to an end in 1870-1871 when the artist moved to L’Estaque
After a lengthy interruption, Cézanne again began coming to Provence. If his visits were irregular, his reactions were strikingly consistent: the brushwork continued to be Impressionist in manner, but the compositions were governed by an entirely different logic. He "discovered" that the reality of Provence altered his gaze, with color coming to the fore in Nature, while the trees, rocks and sea drew him towards structured compositions. During this period he resided mainly in L’Estaque
, le Jas de Bouffan
and Montbriant became his preferred locations for landscape painting. In these five years Cézanne began to stake his creative aspirations on capturing the images of his native Provence. He explored the Jas de Bouffan
, starting with the avenue of chestnut trees, while the hill of Bellevue
provided an unexpected vantage point over Mount Sainte-Victoire, which became one of the great motifs in his art. Gardanne
, only a few miles from Aix, offered proto-Cubist compositions, but with an eye to the Italian tradition. There was no need for him to go to Rome: the Provençal landscape contained all the elements of the classical vocabulary of the ideal, as defined in Italy by Poussin and Claude Lorrain.
Again a time of much traveling for the painter (Paris, Franche-Comté, Switzerland, Upper Savoy, then back to Paris and its surrounds), but also the period in which he discovered two further important motifs: the house at Château-Noir and the Bibémus quarries
. The setting of the half-abandoned, neo-Gothic building, surrounded by dramatic cliffs, twisted pinewoods and thick, rapidly spreading undergrowth, answered the artist’s need to establish order out of both exterior and interior confusion. The old quarries at Bibémus
, hewn out of the living rock for building stone to be used in Aix, were evocative of an ancestral archaeology even older than that suggested by the ruins of the Colosseum.
During the last years of his life, the painter was based in Aix-en-Provence. The studio in the Rue Boulegon was unsuitable for his planned series of large-scale paintings of bathing nudes, and so Cézanne had a new studio
purpose-built, above the town at Les Lauves. Here the artist arrived at a still unparalleled synthesis of light, color, composition and figuration, exemplified in the late still lifes, portraits (Vallier) and bathing nudes and in his last landscapes of Mount Sainte-Victoire.