When I first saw La Montagne Sainte Victoire, I was mildly disappointed, I have to say. I was expecting a monumental, snow peaked sort of thing. A pillar of cold fire that would make me feel small and little frightened. Instead I found a sturdy, reliable, limestone mound of everything-you-want-it-to-be-when-you-need-it.
Paul Cezanne painted this mountain more than 60 times. I'm beginning to understand why. This mountain has a base like my rear end…wide and far reaching. It’s solidly planted (I, however, am not) and it's sort of raw and utilitarian. It has a completely different persona depending upon your vantage point. From the south it solitarily rises up from the planes like an eruption and takes you by surprise. From the north, near the village of Vauvenargues, it has the appearance of foothills and it seems to wrap itself around you. There it gives me the sense of being nestled in…comfortable.
One of the most remarkable traits of this mountain, is the way it transforms with the light. The first time I saw it, it was nearly pure white and I actually thought it was covered in snow. But depending upon the time of day and the quality of the light, it will morph to pink, or orange or blue or a wonderful mixture of all of the above and then some. It reminds me of a slow motion version of the northern lights at their best.
Artists are drawn to the mountain, not just because it was a favorite of Paul Cezanne, although I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. It’s simply a wealth of material…. a mass of shapes, a full palette of color, a model that sits still for no one. A challenge. Of course, I really don’t know, I’m not a painter….but my friend Lynn Rousseau is. She has painted St. Victoire many times and her last grand painting is my favorite.
I live in a furnished apartment and that includes the art on the walls. One painting is so dismal I had to take it down or start taking anti-depressants. One I actually like very much….and the other… The other is a painting of a house which is fairly detailed. But rising up from behind this house, just a little off to the right, is a giant, pink….breast. That’s honestly what it looks like. I know it’s supposed to be St. Victoire because there is a cross on it’s nipple! The Breast St. Victoire seems to be an afterthought in this painting and it looks as if it was painted in about 5 minutes. Even if it were a breast it wouldn’t be a very good one. Every time I look at this painting, I get irritated..... really irritated. This guy didn’t even try. He made absolutely no real attempt to capture this mountain. He copped out…laid down a little color, topped it off with a crucifix and called it a day. And probably sold it because it was “local”. This mountain deserves better.
St. Victoire is not Mont Blanc, it’s not Mount Everest, and it’s certainly not an absurd, rosy, massive mammary. But it’s our mountain. It’s our anchor...our base. Whenever I’m coming home after a trip of some distance, I look for it. I want to see what sort of mood it’s in and what color it has decided to wear that day. And when it appears I always exclaim outloud ,“there’s our mountain!”. And I know I’m almost home.