UK Looks to Block Sale of $20 Million Cézanne Painting

Paul Cézanne's Vue sur L’Estaque et le Château d’If.
Paul Cézanne, Vue sur L’Estaque et Le Château d’If (1883–85). Photo: courtesy Christie's.

Paul Cézanne, Vue sur L’Estaque et Le Château d’If (1883–85).
Photo: courtesy Christie’s.

The UK is fighting to keep a Paul Cézanne landscape painting in the country following its sale for £13.5 million ($20.5 million) at Christie’s London during its $222.8 million Impressionist and modern art sale in February.

At the auction, Vue sur L’Estaque et Le Château d’If (1883–85) barely topped its pre-sale estimate of £8–12 million ($13–19 million), and was sold to Nancy Whyte, an American art advisor.

Today the British culture minister, Ed Vaizey, placed a temporary export bar on the painting, giving a UK buyer until at least December 21 to match the price at auction.

An employee at Christie's poses with Paul Cézanne's <em>Vue sue L'Estaque et Le Chateau d'If</em> and George's Braque's <em>Paysage a L'Estaque</em> in London. Photo: courtesy Reuters.

An employee at Christie’s poses with Paul Cézanne’s Vue sue L’Estaque et Le Chateau d’If and George’s Braque’s Paysage a L’Estaque in London.
Photo: courtesy Reuters.

“For almost 30 years this quietly beautiful painting has adorned the walls of the Fitzwilliam Museum where it has been enjoyed by countless visitors” Vaizey said in a statement, expressing his hope that “the painting will soon be back on the walls of one of our great public collections.”

Vue sur was purchased in 1936 by British industrialist Samuel Courtauld for his private collection. The collector owned a dozen works by the French post-Impressionist, donating all but this one to his Courtauld Institute of Art.

Prior to the sale, the canvas, one of many the artist painted of the bay of Marseilles and the village of L’Estaque, had been on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge since 1985.

Though there are currently 35 Cézanne paintings in the country’s institutions, the UK is without a L’Estaque canvas, which are considered among the artist’s most important works.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Photo: Fitzwilliam Museum.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Photo: Fitzwilliam Museum.

“This is a rare opportunity to fill a significant gap in the UK’s otherwise impressive holdings of Cézanne’s work,” Aidan Weston-Lewis, a member of the country’s Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, said in a statement.

The export license for Vue sur will be reviewed again at the year’s end, so Vaizey has six months to drum up the kind of support that recently kept a Van Dyck portrait, the Wedgwood Collection, and the Wolsey angels from being sold off.

If fundraising goes well, the deadline could be extended by a further half a year.

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