Friday, May 10, 2019
Fire on Cezanne’s Mountain
By Tara Miller
“I have come forth to this hill at sunset to see the forms of the mountains in the horizon - to behold and commune with something grander than man.”
-H. D. Thoreau
Mont Sainte-Victoire is perhaps best known for the paintings depicting it by Paul Cezanne in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Cezanne’s painting Mont Sainte-Victoire above the Tholonet Road, 1896-98
The mountain is located in Provence in southern France. The region is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, which has hot, dry summers that are prone to fire.
In 1989, a massive fire swept through 5,000 hectares of shrubs and oak forest on the southern side of the mountain, drastically changing the appearance of the landscape and leaving the limestone cliffs more exposed.
Firefighters during the 1989 fire, with Mont Sainte-Victoire in the background.
Mont Sainte-Victoire before the 1989 fire (trets.free.fr)
Mont Sainte-Victoire after the 1989 fire (©2005 Benh Lieu Song)
Hiking is now restricted in the summer months due to fire risk. These fires will only become more common as climate change means higher temperatures and lower rainfall for this region. The area around Mont Sainte-Victoire may eventually become a desert1, leaving a landscape much different from the ones in Cezanne’s paintings.
Cezanne’s painting Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine (https://courtauld.ac.uk)