Overview

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.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

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.[1]

Exhibition History

1939
Cezanne Centennial Exhibition, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 1939, no. 14
1955
Albany Institute of History and Art, 1955, no cat.
1960
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.
1961
Exhibition of the Marie and Averell Harriman Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1961, unnumbered catalogue, repro. 15
1984
Loan for display with permanent collection, Southampton Art Gallery, Southampton, England, 1984
1984
Paul Cézanne, Museo Español de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid, 1984
1986
Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 6, repro.
1990
Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 61, repro.
1993
Extended loan for use by Ambassador Pamela Harriman, U.S. Embassy residence, Paris, France, 1993-1997.
1999
Around Impressionism: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1999, no cat.
1999
Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 54, repro.
2000
Cézanne: Vollendet - Unvollendet [Cézanne: Finished - Unfinished], Kunstforum Wien, Vienna; Kunsthaus Zürich, 2000, no. 102, fig. 19.
2007
Cézanne in Florence. Two collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism., Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 2007, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
2010
Paths to Abstraction 1867 to 1917, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2010, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
2011
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.

Bibliography

1936
Venturi, Lionello. Cezanne, son art, son oeuvre. 2 vols. Paris, 1936.
1970
Orienti 1970, no.740.
1975
_European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 62, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 499, no. 739, color repro.
1985
_European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 83, repro.
1990
_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.
1996
Rewald, John. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: a catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1996:no. 724, repro.
1997
Kelder, Diane. The Great Book of French Impressionism, 1997, no. 373, repro.
2007
Bardazzi, Francesco, ed. Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism. Exh. cat. Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. Milan, 2007: 264 fig. 29.

Technical Summary

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