image: Cezanne in Provence image: National Gallery of Art image: Cezanne in Provence

image: L'Estaque: Rocks, Pines, and Sea, 1883 – 1885, oil on canvas, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
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Motif: Trees

"He had no real friends except for trees."
Joachim Gasquet, 1926

Cézanne loved trees, especially the pines that characterize the Provençal landscape. They provided him with some of his most deeply felt motifs. In an 1858 letter to his friend Zola, written at the age of nineteen, he exclaimed, "Do you remember the pine tree on the bank of the Arc, which bent its shaggy head over the wide pool extending at its feet? That pine, whose foliage shielded our bodies from the heat of the sun? Ah! May the gods protect it from the fatal stroke of the wood-cutter's axe."

Trees appeared prominently, in Cézanne's work throughout his career, whether as traditional framing devices— as in Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, 1886–1887—or as the principal subject. Cézanne devoted several paintings to his favorite allée of trees on the family estate: for example, Chestnut Trees and Basin at the Jas de Bouffan, 1868–1870. He was particularly captivated by the large pines near his sister Rose Conil's estate, which he depicted in works such as The Aqueduct, c. 1885–1890, The Large Pine, c. 1889, and Large Pine and Red Earth, 1890–1895. In L'Estaque: Rocks, Pines and Trees, 1883–1885, a wall of tall pines blocks out most of the distant view, giving the viewer a sense of the windswept greenery that overlooks the town, seen in the upper left.

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