Do you remember that pine, the one that stood firm on the bank of the Arc, bending its spreading boughs over the river at its feet? That pine whose shade protected our bodies from the sun, oh, may the gods preserve it from the deadly blows of the woodsman’s ax!
Letter from Cézanne to Zola, 1st April 1858
Cézanne was greatly concerned to find his path, to “make Impressionism into a thing as solid and lasting as the art in galleries and museums”. In Provence he found geological structures in the landscape, colors in the soil and sky, transparency in the undergrowth… all things which he felt the need for in the creative process he was gradually mastering. Mountains, trees and rocks were waiting for a painter like him, in order to become pictures.
Cézanne ceased to be a painter in the tradition of imitation after nature. He composed and constructed landscapes which were recognizably paintings of the subjects in front of his easel, but what he was painting was for him an artistic equivalent of nature, “a harmony parallel to nature”.
Cézanne’s Provence? Pine trees and thickets, standing on ochre, almost red soil; the stony paths smelling of wild thyme; the fields scorched to varying degrees by the sun: Cézanne was never to tire of painting these “motifs” which, just like the oaks and birches for painters in the heart of France, were to be the specific emblems of his land.