'It’s a dear old friend I frequently visit at the Courtauld Gallery'

Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, 1887, Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), 26¼in by 36¼in, The Courtauld Gallery

Mr Gompertz says:
‘Frankly, I could have picked any number of Cézannes as my favourite painting, but I chose this landscape because it’s a dear old friend I frequently visit at the Courtauld Gallery. I love the way it shimmers with his staccato brushstrokes and sings with his symphonic and melodious greens and pinks.

‘It’s a no-holds-barred enquiry into how we see, but, more than that, this is a visual love letter to his home of Aix and a view he could never get enough of, and—through his eyes—neither can I.’

Will Gompertz is the BBC’s Arts Editor. 

John McEwan comments:
‘In 1886, Cézanne’s banker father died, leaving him free of financial worry. It was just as well: Cézanne didn’t have his first solo show until 1895, the year after publication of the first substantial article on his work.

‘This landscape was also first shown in 1895, in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence in an exhibition by local amateur artists. He gave it away as a present to a young admirer, his future memoirist Joachim Gasquet, hence the rare addition of his signature.

‘Cézanne always loved the country round Aix. As a schoolboy, he and his best friend, Emile Zola, would take any opportunity, as Zola recalled, to go ‘for endless strolls across the hills’. In summer, they swam; in autumn, they carried guns for hunting, more for the fun of firing than filling a game-bag. ‘The hunting party always finished in the shade of a tree…,’ wrote Zola, ‘lying on our backs… chatting away about our loves’, chiefly poetry.

‘The older he got, the more Cézanne treasured Provence, especially those childhood haunts overlooked by Mont Sainte-Victoire—often a larger presence in his paintings, a symbol of constancy, than in reality, lying eight miles from Aix.

‘The painter Maurice Dennis, responsible for an early and influential appraisal, wrote: ‘I have never heard an admirer of Cézanne give me a clear and precise reason for his admiration.’ Samuel Courtauld, founder of the Courtauld Gallery collection, had his epiphany when a young First World War-airman friend explained a Cézanne landscape: ‘It makes you go this way, and that way, and then off the deep-end altogether!’’