As a model for this colour lithograph, Paul Cézanne chose one of the paintings he showed in 1877 at the third Impressionist exhibition, the second and last in which he participated. He produced this graphic work for Ambroise Vollard, his merchant, who intended to publish it along with a self-portrait in a booklet dedicated to painters who also worked as printmakers, a project that would never see the light of day. The scene contains two of the artist’s favourite iconographic themes: nudes in a landscape, and Mont Sainte-Victoire,the landform that Cézanne practically fetishized, in front of which he died from a cerebral haemorrhage while painting it.
In Cézanne’s work, visual truth clearly undergoes a reworking by the intellect, as part of his constant rethinking of the foundations of painting and its possibilities. Far removed from the premises of Impressionism, which had never been compatible with his own, he was an extraordinary forerunner of the artisticenquiry of the 20th-century avant-garde. His ability to synthesise reality in geometric forms thatseem sculpted in line and colour, the solidity of his figures, the accentuated volumes, and his innovative personal approach to the very concept of painting and drawing posed fundamental questions for the new generation, starting with Picasso and Braque, who were looking to Cézanne when they invented the grammar of Cubism.