Paul Cézanne
Poplars

Poplars
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Poplars
1879-1880
Oil on canvas
H. 65; W. 80 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Les peupliers [Poplars]


This painting probably depicts a scene outside the grounds of the château de Marcouville, very close to Pontoise. Cézanne's interest in this landscape may be linked to the fact that his friend Camille Pissarro had already painted there five years earlier. However the comparison stops there. The patient search for gentle solutions typical of Pissarro seems far removed from this painting imbued with powerful energy.

Cézanne was interested in the clump of tall trees on the banks of the Viosne. The difficulty was in making this landscape of greenery "readable". To this end, he contrasted the rectilinear aspect of the poplars with the confused mass of the other trees. Between the slanting brushstrokes, characteristic of this period, the white background filters through almost everywhere, bringing luminosity and animation to the surface of the painting. Clearly Cézanne was seeking to overcome the technical difficulty of representing a view where the only motif was foliage.

The difference between this wooded landscape and those of the Barbizon school is significant. Cézanne, like Pissarro, represented trees that had been planted by man rather than those that grew "naturally". He therefore introduced into his paintings signs of human activity organising the landscape, rather than Nature's anarchic growth.


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