R725 – Le Pont de l’île Machefer à Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, 1892-1894 (FWN282)

Pavel Machotka

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The most remarkable of the recent discoveries of sites on the river Marne is a picture of a wooden footbridge that connects with another island on the river Marne. It is of a well-known painting that can now be better identified as Le Pont de l’île Machefer à Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. The photograph does much more than locate Cézanne in a specific place; it revises radically our understanding of the painting.

Without it, the painting appears – has always appeared — as a prescient anticipation of the late Cézanne, of the painter for whom the rhythms of his touch rival, and sometimes overcome, the cadences of nature. Of course, those rhythms animate this painting as well and even dominate it, but they have an obvious origin in the crossed beams that support the bridge. The diagonally placed, short touches in the trees are the beams’ omnipresent and persistent echo. But as one looks, they are more than an echo: in the painting, suggestions of branches begin to appear among them, which call us back to the scene, just as in the photograph a few diagonal branches can be found that parallel the beams — which take us back to the picture and explain its rhythms. The painting’s musical surface alludes to the order that underlies the site and offers us a rarely seen balance between the painter’s visual sensation and the logic of the canvas, much as, some fourteen years before, Le Pont de Maincy did for the little bridge.

Source: Machotka, Cézanne: Landscape into Art.