Audio transcript

Paul Cezanne 'The Grounds of the Château Noir'

Narrator: John House of the Courtauld Institute comments on a painting by Cezanne from the first years of the last century, 'The Grounds of the Château Noir'.

Cezanne's a wonderful place to start the idea of landscape in the Twentieth Century but also he's a great place to end the story of landscape in the Nineteenth Century. This painting was until recently in the National Gallery where it was the end of one story and having been moved to the Tate it's now the beginning of another very very different story. Cezanne was absolutely riveted by the places he actually painted in and if you go down to Aix-en-Provence and wander around in the hills above the Château Noir where Cezanne painted this canvas, you feel a landscape that Cezanne is absolutely inside visually. Then you put it in a Twentieth Century context and it looks like the pioneer of abstraction, it looks like leading towards a quite different sort of landscape as inner imaginative space and not a response to the external world.
When you look at the paintings' technique - these flat patches of colour that seem to sit very much on the surface of the canvas - that makes you think about the canvas as a flat surface in it own right and interpret it very much in terms of Twentieth Century modernism. But also these flat patches of colour are what, in Nineteenth Century contexts, were described as in French 'taches' - patches. And this was a language of representing the visible world that was absolutely central to the debates around Impressionism through from the 1860s, 1870s onwards. And Cezanne is here using the brushstroke, the mark on the surface, as a way of trying to convey his experience of the scene in front of him, his personal, individual experience, in terms of patches of colour, to render space through colour.