At Large  February 22, 2024  Rebecca Schiffman

Mural by Paul Cézanne Discovered in the Artist's Childhood Home

Courtesy Aix ma ville on Facebook

Close-up of a mural by Paul Cézanne found at his childhood home.

On February 16, Sophie Joissains, the mayor of Aix-en-Provence, France, announced a new discovery: While renovating the French painter’s childhood home, a team of restorers peeled back the wallpaper to reveal a 64-foot-long work by Paul Cézanne, depicting a maritime scene of sky, water, ships, and a port. “Cézanne has not stopped surprising us," wrote Joissains in her Facebook announcement, which followed a press preview the day before. 

In light of this discovery, the city will be celebrating the restoration of the home with the Société Paul Cézanne in 2025. 

Paul Cézanne was a French Post-Impressionist painter, known for his contributions to impressionistic still life painting and his influence on the Cubist movement of the early twentieth century. Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839. In 1859, his father purchased the manor house and surrounding garden known as Bastide du Jas de Bouffan, which remained in the family’s possession until 1899. It was at this residence that Cézanne found his main inspiration, regularly painting en plein air, setting up his easel in the surrounding park and farm. Also while living there, Cézanne painted a dozen murals on the walls of the house.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Paul Cézanne, Le Bassin du Jas de Bouffan (The Pond at Jas de Bouffan), ca. 1876

Joissain's announcement, posted to Facebook, recounts that they were undergoing renovations of the “Grand Salon” room in the house when they discovered some “hidden, unknown, treasures of the painter.” Though they need to do more scans and figure out exactly what lies behind the wall, Joissains already reported that they found a painting of a sky, a boat mast, and the entrance to a port. It’s believed that this work was painted during his youth. 

There were nine other previously uncovered murals found in the home that were transferred to canvas before the sale of the home in 1899 and now reside in museums including the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Chrysler Museum of Art. While those murals are included in John Rewald's 1996 catalogue raisonné of the artist, this one is not. However, it will be included in an updated online version of the catalogue.

Aix-en-Provence is filled with landmarks associated with Cézanne. Beyond the Bouffan mansion, there is the artist's studio on Lauves’ hill, complete with his furniture and tools. Cézanne worked here from 1902 to his death in 1906. In addition, the city boasts the Carrières de Bibémus, a quarry that functioned until the 18th century that was used for Aix monuments and is generally known as the birthplace of Cubism. Not far from Cézanne's home and studio, the quarry was painted by the artist many times, often in Cubistic motifs of rock, vegetation, and sky.

The 2025 celebration will not only include the restoration of the Bouffan manor and the new mural, but it will also bring together many of Cézanne’s most beloved works, including one of the five paintings in his renowned late-in-life series, The Card Players.

“With this unexpected discovery, Cézanne didn't stop moving us, either. And Aix-en-Provence to write the history of his affiliation with the painter," wrote Joissain. "He is the emblem and ambassador of our City.” 

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