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Cézanne Mural Found On Parents’ Walls

February 27, 2024
A black-and-white photograph of the painter Paul Cézanne at age 22

Paul Cézanne, 1861

A lot of kids draw on the walls of their house. Most of the time, their parents scrub away the crayon and think it’s over. But if your child turns out to be Paul Cézanne, it may be good to not touch anything. That is more or less what they did, as we discovered recently when a work crew uncovered a mural by the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist master at his parents’ house.

The Bastide du Jas de Bouffan is a 12-acre manor in Aix-en-Provence, which Louis-Auguste Cézanne purchased in 1859. At the time, his son Paul attended the local university, where he studied law. However, Paul was only doing this at his father’s insistence and was attending classes at the École de dessin in the evenings. His desire to pursue art was no secret from his father since Louis-Auguste occasionally indulged his son’s passion for painting and drawing. In 1860, Louis-Auguste allowed his son to create several murals throughout the house, enabling him to imitate masters like Courbet and Ruisdael. It would only be another year before he abandoned his legal studies to study art in Paris. Cézanne created nine (known) murals for the house’s interior. In 1880, he later established his studio in the house. All those murals have since been removed, transferred to canvases, and displayed in museums in France, Japan, and the United States. However, a tenth mural has recently been rediscovered during renovations on the house to prepare it in time for events celebrating Cézanne and his connections to Aix-en-Provence.

This work is in very poor condition, as has been hidden under layers of wallpaper and paint for over a century-and-a-half. It is called Entrée du port (Entrance to the Port), with several ships in a harbor, showing influence from Claude-Joseph Vernet and Claude Lorrain. The only fragments that exist now are some buildings and the pennants and flags from the tops of masts in the upper left. According to local specialists, Entrée du port was only viewable for a few years since he covered it up with another mural dating to 1864. Construction workers uncovered Entrée du port back in August, but the announcement was delayed until this past weekend. This is rather exciting for Aix-en-Provence. With the other murals now gone, Entrée du port is the only work by Cézanne anywhere in the city. Furthermore, it also provides an example of the artist’s early work, which allows art historians to gain insight into his artistic development.

Cézanne’s online catalogue raisonné, curated by the Société Paul Cézanne, will soon include Entrée du port alongside the twenty-two other murals Cézanne created throughout his life. Once the restorations are complete, the Société plans on turning the Bastide into a research center dedicated to the artist.