Art is a harmony that runs parallel with nature.
Located on the Mediterranean Sea about twenty miles from Aix, the small fishing village of L’Estaque became a popular seaside resort in the mid-nineteenth century. Cézanne went there in 1870 together with his companion Hortense Fiquet, whom he had met in Paris the year before, and stayed on through part of 1871, returning afterward on a number of occasions.
L’Estaque played a decisive role in the development of Cézanne’s artistic vision, for it was there, far removed from the dominant artistic currents in Paris, that his style began to mature into a truly personal vision. Cézanne responded strongly to the brilliant light and vivid color of the Mediterranean coast, writing to Camille Pissarro in 1876: “The sun here is so terrific that objects appear silhouetted not only in white or black, but in blue, red, brown, violet. I may be wrong, but it seems to me to be the opposite of modeling.” Beginning around 1880, Cézanne moved beyond the flickering brushwork characteristic of impressionism to his more mature style, which is notable for its structured application of paint in the form of dense, parallel brush strokes. The patches of color rendered in this way unite his compositions through an overall surface pattern, a tapestry-like effect seen readily in works such as Houses in Provence: The Riaux Valley near L’Estaque, c. 1883.
In most of his paintings of L’Estaque, such as The Gulf of Marseille Seen from L’Estaque, c. 1885, Cézanne placed the town it into a timeless realm: here he looks across the blue expanse of the bay from above the busy fishing village, with no suggestion of its daily activity; only the smokestack of a tile factory denotes the modern world.