Mountains seen from l'Estaque
In places, for example the more roughly executed mountain in the background of "Mountains seen from l'Estaque" Montagnes vues de l'Estaque (c. 1878-1880), the lack of finish has left the earlier, less organized brushwork exposed, but generally the size and direction of touch is fairly uniform. Sometimes the direction of touch sweeps round, following and emphasising the separate interlocking folds of the landscape, as in the foreground parts. A high viewpoint, looking down on the scene, was chosen by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), and this tips the landscape up, flattening it closer to the picture plane and cutting down the sky area.
Cézanne let the cream ground show through amongst the colours in the paint layer, leaving it totally uncovered in places, either to save time or so as to stand in for highlights, which he intended to add in later. Cézanne took advantage of the contrasting effects of warm and cool colours in his painting. Where the warm cream ground shows through, a lively contrast with the cool colours in the paint layer is created; so that by juxtaposition of opaque blues, on the skyline, with the cream of the ground, colours are mutually enhanced. The cold blue appears bluer and cooler, the cream of the ground is warmed, appearing pink against the blues. Because warm colours advance and cold colours retreat, they can be used to model form and to structure recession in space. Cézanne's limited palette means that modulated mixtures, and repeated usages of the same colour in different contexts, gives harmony to the work. Cézanne's palette for this work is likely to have included:
- viridian green and emerald green,
- lead white,
- zinc white,
- chrome yellow,
- yellow ochre,
- red earth or vermilion,
- and cobalt blue
Given the opportunity to paint the view over water from his room in L'Estaque, near Marseilles, Cézanne also liked to work out of doors in very clear, crisp lighting conditions. In good light conditions of the South of France, even distant vistas appear quite close and the phenomenon of aerial perspective, local colours becoming paler and bluer toward the horizon, is at a minimum. This meant that the colours of the landscape were at their most saturated and pure and distant colours had almost equal strength to those close to, and it contradicts the illusion of space because background colours are as rich as those in the foreground. The contradictions between the surface flatness and illusion of space in Cézanne's painting, like that of Impressionist painter Claude-Oscar Monet (1840-1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), create a characteristic visual tension. This work was first owned by the Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), who greatly admired Cézanne's methods.