R628 – Le Quai du Halage à Créteil, 1888-1892 (FWN251)
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Among the recent discoveries of Cézanne’s sites through a search of nineteenth century postcards is the view of Le Quai du Halage à Créteil, which establishes the location and suggests a date from Cézanne’s early excursions to the region to paint, in 1888. What strikes one about the touch is its unforced fit to the site: the touches in the houses are straight and rough, to suggest their irregular stucco, while in the sky and in the river banks they remain loose and unsystematic. But it is not the style or the dating that attracts our attention, it is rather the concentration of the forms. The painting is dominated by a tree that is for all purposes central (but is displaced slightly to the left to balance a crown that bears down to the right); the tree becomes a point of tension, a locus of a number of tighly massed buildings, and the fulcrum of two lines that create a dramatic V. The contemporary photograph shows all these buildings, but it was taken from a spot to the right of Cézanne’s standpoint and sees the houses spread further; its composition is looser and as a result more natural. But Cézanne’s very tight grouping works; a more generous arrangement, like that of the photograph, might have deprived us of the sensuous pleasure he seems to have taken in applying the paint coarsely, with just the right density.
Source: Pavel Machotka: Cézanne: Landscape into Art