The Red Rock

"It is known that most new painters lay claim to this sincere and selfless artist" wrote Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), Paul Guillaume's mentor, 1910. Actually, Paul Cézanne is very often, and rightly so, associated with a new concept of painting that was to find extensive posterity with 20th-century artists. He introduced a new visual language of form, perspective and structure with his paintings. The Red Rock, painted around 1895, is considered to be one of the master pieces of Cézanne's maturity. It is indicative of this revival and established itself at the same time as a unique work in the painter's career. The deserted landscapes of the Bibémus quarries near Aix-en-Provence form the subject of this surprising composition and inspired Cézanne many more times between 1895 and 1904. This one simply depicts a patch of trees painted with cross hatched brushwork making them stand out from the orange rocks and topped off with a blue sky. The idea of traditional perspective seems to have been abolished here, while the feeling of strangeness comes from the intrusion of a rock in the upper right of the composition that has an almost abstract and geometric appearance. In 1978, John Rewald pointed out that "From the standpoint of the composition, the totally asymmetrical and abrupt superimposition of the rock in this forest scene is a wholly unaccustomed element in Cézanne's landscapes" but he also decided that "a miraculous equilibrium" resulted from the whole. Paradoxically, Paul Guillaume's widow Domenica, who had more classical tastes than her husband, is to thank for this audacious painting joining the collection. It also came into the hands of art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939).

Provenance: Ambroise Vollard, Paris; Domenica Walter

This work is exhibited at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, of which the Public Establishment of the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie is a partner.