“No one before him ever demonstrated so clearly the extent to which painting is something that takes place among the colours.” What Rilke observed in Cézanne's watercolours in 1907 was to mature into an unequivocal fact only a few years later in Kandinsky's first abstract watercolour. The liberation of colour from form that had begun with Delacroix and become all the more distinct throughout Impressionism up to van Gogh finds one of its earliest artistic realizations in Cézanne's Study of a Tree. However, Cézanne the watercolourist never lost sight of the balance of the overall picture. Even when the way seemed cleared for colours, he arranged his own colours as weights and counter-weights along linear swaths of shading. In a constant dialogue with the subject matter, the spots and areas gradually build to a floating structure of imagery that weds colour to space in an unprecedented way.
Thanks to a generous jubilee donation, 1935 was an exceptional year for the Kunsthaus Collection: four watercolours by Cézanne were acquired from the outstanding collection of Paul Cassirer; a fifth was added as a gift from the Society for the Art of Drawing in Zurich. In 1920, with the acquisition of Paysage en Provence, the way had already been paved for the collection of an incomparable group of watercolours by Cézanne. Together with van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Vallotton and alongside Hodler, Munch, Kollwitz, Liebermann, Klinger, Corinth and Slevogt the foundation was laid for a modern collection with an international profile.