The son of a prosperous banker, Paul Cézanne turned from law to art after being drawn into the artistic circle of his friend, poet Émile Zola. Primarily a painter and draftsman, Cézanne was not a prolific printmaker. His complete output of prints consists of nine works in both etching and lithography. His first experiment with printmaking came in the summer and fall of 1873 when he was working in Auvers, surrounded by serious print enthusiasts: fellow artists Camille Pissarro and Armand Guillaumin; and Cézanne's host, the Impressionist patron and famed Vincent van Gogh subject, Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet. Under their influence and encouragement, Cézanne executed five etchings, but he discontinued printmaking after parting company with them. It would be twenty years before he made another print.
In 1895 Parisian publisher and gallerist Ambroise Vollard gave Cézanne an exhibition that was instrumental in promoting his work and establishing his reputation. This show coincided with the revival of color lithography in France in the 1890s, and Vollard was among those art entrepreneurs who commissioned and published prints for portfolios. Cézanne created a lithograph for one of Vollard's early portfolios and two more for another, never-realized project. One of the latter was The Large Bathers, based on his best-known painting at the time and one of numerous works depicting this subject. To make the color lithograph, Cézanne painted in watercolor over a black-and-white proof of the composition, then entrusted master printer Auguste Clot to help him re-create the same color effects through lithography. This and other collaborative efforts between artist and printer were common print workshop practice.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 40.