National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 19, 1972

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Cézanne, Vollard, and Lithography: The Ottawa Maquette for the "Large Bathers" Colour Lithograph

by Douglas W. Druick

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  

            12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18 

It is more logical to assume that the black keystone for the Small Bathers was executed after the transfer drawings for the other lithographs. It is likely that the artist would first approach the new medium using the materials which best allowed him to work in his accustomed drawing manner. This meant the use of transfer paper, which was the material recommended by the Société des peintres-lithographes to painters who wished to try their hand in the fashionable medium (note 70). The artist would seemingly be most inclined to work directly on the stone only after he had become familiar with the medium and had gained assurance. In the case of Cézanne, this hypothesis is supported by the fact that Clot apparently encouraged or persuaded artists who had worked on transfer paper to try drawing directly on the surface of the stone. (79)

Since the drawing of the Small Bathers was done on the stone, it must have been executed while Cézanne was in Paris. Given its date of publication, one can assume that it dates no later than April 1897. Therefore it seems that Cézanne produced the two transfer lithographs, the Portrait of Cézanne and the Large Bathers, some time after his first association with Vollard in 1896 but prior to beginning work on the stone in the fall or winter of 1896-1897.

The addition of colour to the impressions in black and the colour printing apparently followed a different sequence. While all the lithographs in black (figs 9, 10, 11) appears to be self-sufficient works of art, there is nevertheless a noticeable difference between the Small Bathers (fig. 9) and the two transfer lithographs (figs 10, II). The Small Bathers lithograph in black is considerably more simplified in execution than the other two. Furthermore, comparison of colour stone (fig. 8) with keystone (fig. 9) impressions reveals that the colour stones "complete" the tree forms which are only suggested in the lithograph in black. On the other hand, comparison of black and colour impressions (figs 3, 4, 10) of the Large Bathers fails to reveal a similar reliance on the colour stones. These differences point to a basic difference in intention.

Judging from Pissarro's experience, Vollard was actively soliciting colour lithographs in the summer of 1896. During the subsequent fall and winter, while Vollard was planning the album of 1897, Cézanne too was undoubtedly pressed to provide the dealer with a lithograph for colour printing. Probably unwilling to become involved in the tedious and complex aspects of colour lithography, Cézanne preferred to follow the procedure wherein he had only to execute the black keystone and subsequently hand-colour an impression. Of the three lithographs in black, the Small Bathers alone appears to have been executed with the intention of serving as the keystone in a colour print. Its more abbreviated nature reflects the artist's awareness that he had to leave room for the addition of colour.

Though preferable in one sense, the demands of the procedure followed in preparing the maquette do not appear to have been congenial to the artist. In the nineties, Cézanne had two approaches to watercol ours. He either worked completely in watercolour (fig. 16) or built up watercolour washes over a light sketch in pencil or black chalk. When he combined pencil or chalk with watercolour, each medium participated in the creation of the final image. Rather than being strictly tied to the drawn forms, the colour areas follow their own logic. In this way the colour is integrated with, rather than merely added to, the line drawing. (80) Though abbreviated, the Small Bathers keystone print is nevertheless an assertive image and as such posed difficulty for the artist when it came to adding colour. The only known maquette for the colour lithograph (81) (fig. 7) is "coloured in" in a pedantic manner that is totally uncharacteristic of Cézanne. Compelled to use an artistic procedure that was foreign to him, the artist was seemingly unable to establish the proper accord between watercolour and drawing. Thus, despite the provisions in the drawing for further development, the watercolour tightly hugs the contours of the figures and so has the appearance of an afterthought. It is for this reason that the subsequent colour print is rather uninteresting.

In the two transfer lithographs by the artist, the forms and value-relationships are more fully spelled out than in the Small Bathers. Indeed the Portrait of Cézanne (fig. II) is so totally conceived in terms of black and white that, as the colour maquette (fig. 12) (82) makes apparent, there is little room for the addition of watercolour; the colour medium is used merely to reiterate the black-and-white statement and does not significantly develop the image. This could well be the reason why the maquette was never translated into a colour lithograph. (83) Certainly it is another reason commissioned for colour printing. It is inconceivable that with his knowledge of the problems involved in preparing a colour maquette, Cézanne would have executed, at a later date, transfer drawings for keystones which would pose problems of a similar, but more acute, nature.

Since the Large Bathers (fig. 10) is developed further in black than is the Small Bathers (fig. 9), it is surprising to find that when adding colour, the artist was appreciably more successful in breaking away from the strictures of the drawing. Roth hand-coloured (figs 2, 5, 6) and colour-printed (figs 3, 4) versions come closer in style to the watercolours of the nineties. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the Large Bathers maquettes were done sometime after that for the Small Bathers, and that having already once worked with the intransigent medium, the artist was more able to overcome the restrictions inherent in the colouring of a black-and-white proof. The rationale for this sequence of execution is undoubtedly explained by the interests of Vollard: infatuated with colour lithography, and probably pleased with the Small Bathers and the critical attention it drew, the dealer wanted to publish more colour lithographs by the artist. To secure maquettes for future colour printings, he asked Cézanne to colour proofs of the earlier lithographs which had not been conceived of as keystones for colour prints.

In the case of both the Small Bathers and the Portrait of Cézanne there is only one impression known to have been coloured by the artist (figs 7, 12). The Large Bathers in the National Gallery is, however, one of four known proofs heightened with watercolour. (84) With the exception of the one in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (fig. 13), (85) these works have all been attributed to Cézanne. Although the number of maquettes seems initially puzzling, there is no reason to question the three maquettes presently given to the artist.

Next Page | collection of Alphonse Kann

  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  

12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18

Top of this page

Home | Français | Introduction | History
Annual Index | Author & Subject | Credits | Contact

This digital collection was produced under contract to Canada's Digital Collections program, Industry Canada.

"Digital Collections Program, Copyright © National Gallery of Canada 2001"