Cézanne spent much of his life working in his native Provence in the south of France, where he painted his well-known views of l’Estaque and Mont Sainte-Victoire. He painted this landscape during the summer of 1885 while visiting Pierre-Auguste Renoir in La Roche-Guyon, a picturesque village along the Seine west of Paris. The dramatic geological features and architecture of La Roche-Guyon made it a popular site for artists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At left, Cézanne depicted the doors of underground dwellings carved into a chalk cliff and in the upper left, atop a distant hill, the village’s medieval castle. Because he never finished the painting, much of his preliminary drawing in graphite, and large areas of primed canvas, remain visible.
The painting represents Cézanne’s early mature style, the period during the early 1880s when he moved away from the Impressionist teachings of Camille Pissarro and began to focus more on compositional structure, using short parallel brushstrokes to build up the forms. Before leaving La Roche-Guyon, Cézanne gave this painting to Renoir, an admirer and collector of his work.