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

Bulletin 19, 1972

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Click figure 17 here for an enlarged image

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

Comparison of details (fig. 17), however, reveals that the state represented by the Metropolitan's impression (fig. 3) clearly follows the maquette more closely in terms of both the form and character of the brushwork than does that represented by figure 4. Differences in the technique used in preparing the colour stones partially accounts for this greater fidelity in the former. All the colour stones for this state were apparently prepared with brush and liquid lithographic ink (tusche). Magnification reveals that many of the colour areas in the other state (fig. 4) were prepared by drawing with crayon on the stone. It is obvious that the crayon method cannot be as successful in emulating the effect of brush and watercolour as a procedure which employs brush and a liquid medium. Important too was the care with which the colour stones were prepared. For the state represented by figure 4, the brushwork of the Ottawa maquette was less scrupulously traced than in the case of the other. (100) The nature of these differences, as well as considerations of both colour and relationship with the Small Bathers, indicate that the Metropolitan's impression (fig. 3) represents the first of the two states. (See appendix for a fuller consideration of this and other problems relating to the Large Bathers colour lithograph.)

There is one major discrepancy between the Ottawa maquette and both states of the colour print. This is the use of ochre in areas that are blue in the maquette. (101) The alteration is disconcerting, particularly in the sky which in both the Ottawa and Steinberg maquettes is coloured with the rich blues so characteristic of Cézanne's palette. The motivation behind this substitution is an enigma, particularly in view of the fact that some impressions in which the superimposed colour printings were incorrectly aligned reveal a blue which, delicate and translucent, could seemingly have translated the maquette adequately. One can hardly imagine the artist suggesting the change to an uncharacteristic palette. Similarly it is most unlikely that a printer who paid close attention to the details of the maquette would have arbitrarily introduced a different colour. For the present the problem must remain unsolved.

On the other hand, the absence of the marginal notations one might expect to find in the maquette used for a colour print, (102) can be easily accounted for. Clot was an artist's lithographer and did a lot of printing for Vollard. Undoubtedly he was aware that in addition to being a working tool, the maquette was a work of art. Therefore he probably tried to preserve the maquette in as pristine a condition as possible. Certainly Vollard, thinking of the potential market value of the maquettes, would have given instructions not to make notations directly on the work.

A consideration of the style and purpose of the Ottawa maquette inevitably raises the question of the relationship between the Large Bathers and the earlier painting, Bathers at Rest (fig. I). Certainly "bathers" compositions interested Cézanne throughout his career. Moreover, it was not uncommon for the artist to repeat, over lengthy intervals, the same composition in different media. However, there is no evidence that Cézanne was involved with the particular composition of the Bathers at Rest during the nineties. (103) Therefore one must ask why the artist selected this composition and chose to follow it precisely when asked to make a lithograph. Moreover, since it was evidently the practice for both artist and publisher to collaborate on the decision regarding the subject matter of the lithographs, (104) it is also necessary to assess the motivation of the publisher.

Waldfogel reasons that Cézanne's choice of the theme is related to the fact that the Bathers at Rest was one of the paintings that the State refused to accept from the Caillebotte bequest. The public exhibition of the accepted works took place early in 1897. Waldfogel implies that Cézanne was prompted by this exhibition "to settle some old scores." (105) He regards the Large Bathers lithograph as both a statement of defiance and an expression of gratitude to Caillebotte "executed in a medium which he [Cézanne] believed would give him access to a large audience." (106) While there may be some truth to this argument, it is weakened by the fact that the transfer drawing for the lithograph was probably executed before the opening of the Caillebotte exhibition. Furthermore, even if the transfer drawing was executed after the opening of the new wing of the Musée de Luxembourg which housed the collection, Waldfogel's argument would fail to explain why the Large Bathers was not included in the album published tell months later, in 1897. If the print was, in fact, primarily motivated by the reasons Waldfogel suggests, then certainly both artist and dealer would have wished to publish it while the issue was still a current one. Moreover, the choice of the subject was probably not Cézanne's alone. In the last decade of his life the artist was apparently quite willing to let others select the works which were to be used to represent him publicly. (107) It is therefore improbable that the painter would have demanded the exclusive right to choose the subject matter of his lithographs. If Vollard specifically requested Cézanne to reproduce his early painting, it is quite possible that the artist would have complied. There are, however, obvious and logical reasons why this particular composition would have been attractive to both the
artist and his publisher.

The Bathers at Rest was undoubtedly Cézanne' s most famous work. Apart from the publicity of the Caillebotte bequest, it had gained prominence in the third Impressionist Exhibition of 1877, which represented the artist with sixteen works. In his review of the exhibition in L'impressioniste, critic Georges Rivière had used this painting as the basis for his lavish praise of the artist. (108) Little accustomed to recognition, Cézanne was undoubtedly pleased by Rivière's elaborate compliment, and may well have had particular confidence in this painting. Cézanne's selection of his most famous oil as the subject for his print can thus be seen as reflecting a common attitude of painters who had a minor interest in print-making; Manet's etching after his famous Olympia provides a comparable example.

The Bathers at Rest was also special in two respects which may have led the artist to find it particularly suitable for reproduction. The heavily reworked canvas was undoubtedly one of the few paintings which the artist believed he had satisfactorily "realized" or developed to a state which he recognized as fulfilling his intentions. (109) It therefore required no further re-workings in order to make it eligible for representation in another medium. The painting was unique, too, in offering the artist the opportunity to express in one work the two preoccupations of his later paintings: bathers in a landscape setting and the view of Mt Ste Victoire.

The celebrity of the Bathers at Rest certainly must have appealed to Vollard, who featured the painting in the window of his gallery during the Cézanne exhibition of 1895. (110) It seems, too, that Vollard liked having artists do lithographs after their more famous works; this is probably the reason why Puvis did a crayon transfer lithograph after his painting Le pauvre pecheur (1.131), the sensation of the 1881 Salon, for the 1897 album. Furthermore, Vollard was undoubtedly attracted to the Bathers at Rest by virtue of his personal taste. He seems to have been particularly interested in Cézanne's figure paintings. All three lithographs which he commissioned from the artist dealt with the human figure. Also, of the three paintings in the gallery window during the 1895 exhibition, two were "bathers" compositions. (111) In addition, the invitation that Vollard had printed for the Cézanne exhibition of l898 reproduced a drawing he owned of nude female bathers (V.1264) dating from the mid-eighties. (112) The dealer's fondness for this motif is reflected in Bonnard's Portrait d'Ambroise Vollard, (113) the one portrait of the publisher that incorporates a work by Cézanne into the composition. The painting above the head of the dealer is apparently Cézanne's Quatre baigneuses (V. 386), which was in Vollard's collection and is closely related to the drawing used for the invitation. This preference for the early figure style is further attested to by the fact that the one facsimile colour lithograph (1.32) that Vollard had Clot execute after a work by Cézanne reproduces the figure painting Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (V.377) of c. 1878.

Thus, aside from its aesthetic interest, the Ottawa Large Bathers maquette is a document significant in many ways. Study of the work in its context provides insight into important developments in the French revival of colour lithography, particularly with regard to the changing attitude towards the concept of the original print which in part accounted for the shift of interest away from the medium. Analysis of the work itself puts to rest some of the problems concerning Cézanne's lithographs and also furthers our knowledge of the artist by revealing his approach to a new problem. Finally, as one of the artist's very few commissioned works, it affords insight into the practice and personality of a man who, in his capacity as art dealer and publisher, played an important rôle in creating the artistic climate which prevailed at the turn of the century.

Next Page | Notes 1 to 18

  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"