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 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 the distance.


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.

More by Ted Heck




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