Cézanne’s work, especially landscape paintings, increasingly verged on abstraction in the artist’s last two decades. In this study of light and reflection, structures on the bank and on the river are simplified into geometric shapes that contrast with the organic lushness surrounding them. The composition threatens to dissolve into patches of color, and pictorial space is flattened. Only near the end of his life did Cézanne’s critical reception, once so derisive, become more open to this aesthetic, which also had an enormous impact on successive generations of painters.
The painting also suggests Cézanne’s working method. The concentration of color in the central motif of the blue house, in the boat with a blue cabin, and in the green houseboat next to it indicate that the artist started in the middle of the composition and moved outward. Landscape and architectural elements are formed more solidly than their reflections in the river, which are composed of paint thinly applied with fluid brushstrokes, almost as though in watercolor. Extremely loose brushwork, seemingly random touches of color—such as a curious red daub found above the roof of the large house—and unpainted areas of canvas convey the impression that Cézanne may still have been considering the next stroke of At the Water’s Edge when he set it aside.
Marks and Labels
Probably purchased through (Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris) by Egisto Fabbri [1866-1933], Florence; acquired through (Paul Rosenberg, Paris) February 1938 by Marie N. Harriman [1903-1970] and W. Averell Harriman [1891-1986], New York [Marie Harriman Gallery]; W. Averell Harriman Foundation; gift 1972 to NGA.
- Cezanne Centennial Exhibition, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 1939, no. 14
- Albany Institute of History and Art, 1955, no cat.
- Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture Collected by Yale Alumni: An Exhibition, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1960, no. 77, repro., as Au Bord de l'eau.
- Exhibition of the Marie and Averell Harriman Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1961, unnumbered catalogue, repro. 15
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Southampton Art Gallery, Southampton, England, 1984
- Paul Cézanne, Museo Español de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid, 1984, no. 37, repro.
- Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 6, repro.
- Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 61, repro.
- Extended loan for use by Ambassador Pamela Harriman, U.S. Embassy residence, Paris, France, 1993-1997.
- Around Impressionism: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1999, no cat.
- Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 54, repro.
- Cézanne: Vollendet - Unvollendet [Cézanne: Finished - Unfinished], Kunstforum Wien, Vienna; Kunsthaus Zürich, 2000, no. 102, fig. 19.
- Cézanne in Florence. Two collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism., Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 2007, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Paths to Abstraction 1867 to 1917, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2010, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 13, repro.
- Venturi, Lionello. Cezanne, son art, son oeuvre. 2 vols. Paris, 1936.
- Orienti 1970, no.740.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 62, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 499, no. 739, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 83, repro.
- Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Exh. cat. Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990: no. 61, repro.
- Rewald, John. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: a catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1996:no. 724, repro.
- Kelder, Diane. The Great Book of French Impressionism, 1997, no. 373, repro.
- Bardazzi, Francesco, ed. Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism. Exh. cat. Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. Milan, 2007: 264 fig. 29.