Thursday, March 25, 2010

St. Victoire

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.



  1. Isn't that the one we're climbing in May?

  2. Yes, ma'am. Bring your hiking boots!

  3. Hey there,


    I love reading about women woo take their lives into their own hands and just live!

  4. I've been looking at that Cezanne painting for about a minute and just don't know how he did it. All the brush strokes look so simple but I know, just know that if I ever tried to copy it then mine would look an absolute mess.

  5. Cezanne's painting of La Montagne Sainte Victoire a some of the most beautiful that I've seen. Although I have never see the mountain itself in person, it appears that it should be on my list of places to visit. The list is getting long. As an artist myself, I am quit intrigued. I shall say that you are an artist of sorts, for you write very well and it was a joy to read your description. I am writer as well.
    I am friend to Carrie Knutson, Hawaii Carrie. She sent me your blog link and I am glad to have this treasure of words of a life well lived.
    Michelle in Germany

  6. Thank you M and bienvenue. I'll come on over and visit you too! Everyone's version of "living" is different. This just happens to be mine...for the moment.
    FF:I recently went to an exibit of Picasso and exploration of how Cezanne's work influenced Picasso. When looking at their paintings side by side, I preferred Cezanne's by far. There is just something about the light in his work that pulls me in.
    I wish I could paint.
    Michelle: Welcome to you also! It's heartening to know that my site actually gets passed on. I understand about "the list". As soon as I check one off, I am compelled to add several more. And thank you for the compliment. It really means so much to me. Now, off to your site.

  7. Better have your oxygen tank with you too Sonja!

  8. Notes from my friend Cory delivered by email. Follow this link to see his fab photo of the mountain photo. I don't know how else to do this!

    Hey D

    aaahhhh..... La Sainte....

    Yeah... that beautiful hunk of rock has a definite magnetic way of growing on you... I look at, contemplate, and admire her every day and when I am away, I also look for her when I come home... to feel back home and to see what mood she is in...She has sat for me many times as a model... with many a change of expression...From my terrace I have seen her completely covered where I can't even see her at all...or sometimes with only a veil or simple coiffe of clouds on or over her...I have seen lightening hit the cross on her head... And I have also often seen her sprawled out lying there in front of me stark naked in the bright mistral light.....You know where I am and the view I have of her and I do often feel a certain sense of comfort and security living behind her in the valley of Vauvenargues...C'est un lieu où souffle l'esprit...It's almost like being maternally watched over at all times....."être sous les jupes" as one would say en français...I completely understand the spell that our little mountain had, has, and will always have on anyone with any sensitivity and sensualité in their mind and body... whether they are artist or just simple dreamer...
    En tout cas...Moi... Je suis ravi d'habiter en face d'une sainte...


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