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

Bulletin 19, 1972

Annual Index
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Click figure 15 here for an enlarged image

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

by Douglas W. Druick

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The only maquette for the Large Bathers cited by Venturi is that which was formerly in the collection of Alphonse Kann (fig. 5). (86) Although the present whereabouts of this work is unknown, it was reproduced in Fritz Rurger's book on Cézanne published in 1920. (87) Judging from the photograph alone, there is no reason to doubt the attribution, which is, moreover, reinforced by a comparison with the two other coloured versions. In the case of these examples not cited by Venturi, one in the collection of Mrs Marc Steinberg, St. Louis (fig. 6), and the other in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (fig. 2), considerations of provenance and style leave no doubt concerning their authorship. Roth works come from the Vollard collection. (88) Furthermore, the same palette appears in each; dominated by variations of blue, green, and yellow, it is that which is most often found in Cézanne's "bather" watercolours of the nineties. (89) Similarly, comparison of both works with the Metropolitan's Study for "Les baigneuses" (fig. 16) reveals that the brushwork of the maquettes is paralleled in "bather" watercolours of the same period. As far as it is possible to tell from a photograph, the brush-work of the Kann version is stylistically related to that of the other two maquettes. Moreover, the disposition of colour areas, particularly close to the Steinberg version, indicates that the Kann version is closely related to the two other approaches to the problem.

One naturally questions why the artist hand-coloured several proofs when apparently the printer required only one maquette. Since we have little information concerning the functioning of Clot's workshop, it is difficult to establish what was the usual procedure in executing colour maquettes for the printer. The example of Renoir suggests, however, that the practice of colouring several proofs in black may not have been uncommon in the case of artists involved in Vollard's publishing activities. With regard to Le chapeau épinglé (J.144), Renoir's large colour lithograph of 1898, Roger-Marx mentions a black impression heightened with pastel and watercolour which was used in the preparation of the colour print. (90) Another state of this print, not cited by either - Johnson or Roger-Marx, (91) closely followed a proof heightened with pastel alone, (92) now in the collection of M. A. C. Mazo, Paris. However the number of maquettes for a print is not necessarily a function of the number of states in which the print exists. Thus there are said to be several coloured proofs of Renoir's Enfants jouant à la balle 0.146, 1900). (93) Since the colour print is known to exist in one state only, it can be assumed that the printer made use of only one of these maquettes.

It is possible to suggest several reasons why Cézanne would have coloured more than one impression. On the basis of the high quality of both Ottawa and Steinberg maquettes, it would be incorrect to hypothesize that the existence of a number of examples suggests that the artist was not entirely satisfied with his first attempt and so continued to work on the problem. Rather, it is most plausible that Cézanne, for whom the repetition and reworking of ideas was customary artistic practice, would naturally have made several maquettes. The valuation of the Clot estate uncovered an interesting testimony to this attitude in the form of a small sheet of transfer paper (fig. 14) on which is twice written the inscription and signature found in the lower right margin of some of the colour impressions (fig. 3). (94) Comparison reveals that neither inscription is that transferred to the stone. Given the transfer paper, the artist covered it with several inscriptions, although one would have been sufficient.

There were, undoubtedly, other considerations that would have made several maquettes desirable. Since Vollard retained two of the hand-coloured proofs of the Large Bathers, it can be inferred that he regarded them as works of art with a potential market-value. The dealer may have therefore requested several coloured impressions simply in order to obtain more of these rare works from the artist. (95) The printer, too, may have wanted several versions in order to choose from them the one he could translate most successfully.

In view of these hypotheses, one might expect that more than one maquette would have been executed in connection with the Small Bathers colour lithograph. Indeed this may well have been the case. The colour print exists in two states which differ in the disposition of the colour areas as well as in the dimensions. (96) Since Clot followed the artists' maquettes with great care when preparing the colour stones, (97) it is highly probable that each of the states followed a different maquette. Furthermore, as neither state is closely related to the one known maquette (fig. 7), one can reasonably assume that Cézanne coloured at least three of the keystone impressions.

Before considering the relationship between the maquettes and the colour print, it is necessary to point out a fact that has been overlooked in all previous references to the lithograph: like the Small Bathers, the Large Bathers exists in two states. Dealers and curators have long been aware that there are colour variations among virtually all impressions. Although sometimes subtle, these variations are often very pronounced. Collectors who have seen many impressions have concluded that the major colour discrepancies reflect two different printings, one predominantly green in tonality, the other predominantly blue. (98) However, the dissimilarity is actually of a more essential nature, determined by the use of an entirely different set of colour stones. The Large Bathers colour lithograph cited in Una Johnson's catalogue (fig. 3) is the one that is characterized as being predominantly green in tonality. With the exception of the trial proofs, the impressions of this state have printed in the lower right margin of the sheet the inscription "Tirage à cent exemplaires no...." and beneath this the signature "P. Cézanne." (99) By contrast, all impressions of the other state are more blue and lack the inscription and signature printed in the margin (fig. 4).

Since the Large Bathers maquettes are equally successful works, it is impossible to determine the factors that were operative in deciding upon the maquette to be followed in the colour printing. Such factors might indeed have included the personal preferences of either artist or publisher, or technical considerations on the part of the printer. Nevertheless, a study of the hand-coloured impressions, in conjunction with the two states of the colour lithograph, confirms the fact that it was the Ottawa maquette (fig. 2) which was followed in both instances. Different tracings of the brushwork of the Ottawa maquette were used in the preparation of the colour stones for each state. This explains why comparison of the two states reveals only minor differences in the shapes of the colour areas (see diagram, fig. 15).

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