Cézanne’s Mountain Revisited
By Ted Heck
It was a lot more comfortable seeing paintings of Mont St. Victoire this
time than when I first saw the real thing 64 years ago.
This time it was in a special exhibition of Paul Cézanne’s work and his
influence on later painters, a show that attracts crowds to Philadelphia’s
Museum of Art.
My first brush with the mountain was in December of 1944, under miserable
conditions. I was in a tent on a hillside near Aix-en-Provence in a staging
area for our infantry division preparing for combat in Alsace Lorraine.
A leaky tent. It rained for most of the week and we were sad and sodden. My
only good memories of the area were the native with a donkey and a wine
barrel from which we filled our canteens. And a view of Mont St.Victoire in
One of my first
letters home during the war was to my old Fine Arts professor. I reported on
the mountain---and the wine.
Cézanne had been featured at the Philadelphia museum in 1996. The current
show, its only U.S. venue scheduled this year, will run until mid-May. The
theme is “Cézanne and Beyond;” it highlights his career, but also includes
works of artists who followed the master: Matisse, Mondrian, Léger, Picasso,
Braque, Giacometti and many others.
I counted seven paintings of Cézanne’s mountain, lingering longer in front
of them than gazing at his still lifes and portraits. To me they were memory
pegs to a turbulent time. Two weeks after the rain in the staging area I was
in a snow-covered foxhole in the Vosges mountains much farther north.