Musée d'Orsay: Paul Cézanne The Lime Kiln

Paul Cézanne
The Lime Kiln

The Lime Kiln
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
The Lime Kiln
Circa 1890-1894
Watercolour and graphite on white paper
H. 42; W. 52,9 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Le four à plâtre [The Lime Kiln]

In his drawings and watercolours of isolated houses amongst the woods in the countryside around Aix, Cézanne skilfully created a contrast between the rigid geometric shapes of man's constructions and the softer, more rounded and unpredictable forms of nature.
The Lime Kiln depicts a large, yellow ochre building that has since disappeared. As ever, the artist carefully chose a viewpoint that enabled him to develop a masterful composition. The tall cylindrical chimney rises up through the space just to the right of the centre to join the peak of Mont Sainte-Victoire, one of Cézanne's favourite motifs. The irregular outlines of the massif's slopes rise above the analogous but featureless triangles of the two roofs.

In 1905, an exhibition of Cézanne's watercolours was held in Paris, the first in his lifetime. As the catalogue from the time gave very little explanation, it is difficult to know if this work was part of the exhibition. The description written for this occasion by the painter Maurice Denis, a great admirer of Cézanne, could perfectly well refer to The Lime Kiln: "The definitive tone of these sketches, as well composed and constructed as the paintings, was already set: powerful and wonderfully vibrant [...] Landscapes in the same series would reveal, on trees or on closely drawn factory buildings, an interplay of white light, heightened by shadows in violet and dark yellow, subtle and shimmering".

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