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Picturing a World

View from a train station

Originally, I had intended to give the Renicks’ a house in Aix-en-Provence, where I spent a semester my sophomore year in college, and place Dr. Aubanel’s sanatorium near its thermal springs. Jeanette and Effie were to stay for a longish visit and encounter Edward swimming in the river Arc, where Paul Cézanne and Êmile Zola swam as boys. It was a familiar and beloved setting for me. I can’t remember now why I changed the location to the little town of L’Estaque, west of Marseille, but I do remember my joy when I read that Cézanne had painted this view from the station. Travel books and timetables of the period told a lot about the journey from Paris to L’Estaque. Cézanne reminded me forcefully of the Provençal glare, color, and harshness that would meet Edward when he arrived and also elements of 19th manmade ugliness.

For a different painting of the viaduct, click here.

The literature on Cézanne is enormous. I couldn’t begin to give advice on where to start. The following three books, however, are the ones that contributed the most background to me revisiting Provence in imagination:

Cézanne Paris-Provence (1995). I was lucky enough to find a copy in the bookstore of the Musée d’Orsay. It is out of print. To find it at a library near you, click here.

Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture by Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer.

Cézanne in Provence, the catalogue for an exhibition that originated at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2006 and traveled to the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. When I was in Aix, I lived around the corner only a few blocks from the museum—how I wish I could have seen the show there!
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