L'École Marchutz

Scholars in Cezanne Country

Kate Butler
Rewald (left) and Marchutz 

Rewald (left) and Marchutz 

Book Cover, 1936, Léo Marchutz and John Rewald 

Book Cover, 1936, Léo Marchutz and John Rewald 

Le Mont Saint Victoire seen from Les Lauves.

Le Mont Saint Victoire seen from Les Lauves.

 Mill stone in the park of the Chateau Noir 

 Mill stone in the park of the Chateau Noir 

View to the west above L'Estaque

View to the west above L'Estaque

In light of our recent field study here in Aix to some of Cézanne's most significant motifs, we present you a series of photos taken by Leo Marchutz and art historian John Rewald. The photos were originally published in a book co-authored by the two titled Cezanne au Chateau Noir, published in 1936, and were on display circa 2006 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It's worth noting that, on our trip, we were discouraged from taking photos of the stately, mysterious manor that is Chateau Noir -  motif of Cezanne, once home to the studio of Leo Marchutz, and now to our two Marchutz School professors  - out of respect to the Tessier family, who still reside on the property. But even more notable is that we were able to visit.

I owe [ Léo Marchutz ] my fervor for Cézanne.
— John Rewald

The photographs of Marchutz and Rewald are better than we could do anyway - of the Chateau Noir and other sites where Cezanne painted, the photos act as both records and references to art historians studying the masterworks that Cezanne created from the same motifs.

Check out a selection of the photos below. With them we've included two writings - the first, a reflection from John Rewald, the second, an excerpt from a scholarly essay on Marchutz's contribution to Cézanne research. Among other things, the essay speaks to the significance of Marchutz's dual vocations as an artist and art historian to his discernment of Cezanne's oevre. On a more sentimental level, the story of Marchutz's arrival in Aix offers insight into the very origins of his namesake school where we go to paint every day.

For a 1977 catalogue for a Cezanne exhibition in Paris, John Rewald reflected upon the on the labor of taking the photos:

“...I first came to Aix in the late spring of 1933 and there met the painter Léo Marchutz, who for several years had been living at Château Noir. He owned a copy of the April 1930 issue of The Arts with an article by Erle Loran (Johnson) on “Cézanne’s Country”, where the first photographs of the artist’s motifs had appeared. On his own, Marchutz had located a series of further motifs, especially at Château Noir and around Le Tholonet. He asked me to take photographs of these with my newly acquired Leica; it wasn’t long until I moved into the main building of Château Noir and we set out a systematic hunt of Cézanne’s motifs throughout the region of Aix, l’Estaque, Gardanne, usually on bicycles, which we often had to push uphill in the stifling heat, for Cézanne liked to work from elevated positions."  (Continue reading here.

More recently, a Agnes Blaha at the University of Vienna wrote a scholarly essay on Marchutz's contribution to our understanding of Cézanne's oeuvre titled Leo Marchutz: A Painter in the Centre of Early Cezanne Research. In her introduction, she recounts how Marchutz's lifetime relationship with the work of Cézanne, both as an artist and an art historian:

View of the Chateau Noir.

View of the Chateau Noir.

In addition to the possibilities these documents offer for a historiographic study of the development of early research in modern art, Marchutz’ work can also be seen as an example for the often underestimated reciprocal influences between creative practice and art historic research.
— Agnes Blaha

"Léo Marchutz, born 1903 in Nuremberg, began his artistic career as an autodidact. In his early years, Cézanne’s art which Marchutz got to know by an exhibition held at the gallery of Bruno Cassierer in Berlin in 1921 and through his visits at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich influenced his view of the possibilities and purposes of art. In his later autobiographical statements, Marchutz’ stressed the importance of his early contacts to Cézanne’s art for his rejection of academic training as an artist and his decision to develop his own style through the individual study of other artists’ works in museums (Châtelet 19). Inspite of this early fascination for Cézanne, it was rather through coincidences that Marchutz began his investigation of Cézanne’s motives, a work which he should continue throughout his whole life. Marchutz first came to Aix-en-Provence in 1928, when his later wife, Anna Kraus, offered him this journey for his help with selling a picture by Cézanne. When they decided to visit the Château Noir, they made the acquaintance of a coachman who had been working for Cézanne and therefore knew some of Cézanne’s favorite places where he regularly went to paint. It seems plausible that this coachman gave the decisive impulse to look out for these places. Arrived at the Château Noir, Marchutz spontaneously decided to rent a small apartment in Cézanne’s old residence, a decision which clearly hints at the enthusiasm he felt for his self-chosen artistic role model. This enthusiasm can also be discerned in Marchutz’ paintings from the first years he spent in Aix, where he definitively settled down in 1931. His landscape paintings with views of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire and a number of still lives painted between 1928 and 1931 show, in spite of all existing differences in style, a deliberate proximity to Cézanne, which already can be seen in the choice of subjects typically associated with Cézanne. Additionally, his interpretation shows the intention to imitate some formal characteristics, especially concerning the creation of volume through large colored patches, an intention that becomes even more obvious when these pictures are compared with his paintings of the Mount Sainte-Victoire from the 1960s, which are in all aspects much more typical for the personal style he had developed."

Find the complete set of photos from Marchutz and Rewald here at National Gallery's Rewald archives.