Cézanne was a French artist and
Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the
transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavor to a
new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. The French
painter Paul Cézanne, who exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued
his interests increasingly in artistic isolation, is regarded today as
one of the great forerunners of modern painting, both for the way that
he evolved of putting down on canvas exactly what his eye saw in nature
and for the qualities of pictorial form that he achieved through a
unique treatment of space, mass, and color. Cézanne was a contemporary
Impressionists, but he went beyond their
interests in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto
objects, to create, in his words, "something more solid and durable,
like the art of the museums.''
Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, on January 19, 1839. His father, Philippe Auguste, was the cofounder of a successful banking firm, which afforded Cézanne financial security that was unavailable to most of his fellow artists. In 1852 Paul Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon, where he met and became friends with Émile Zola. This friendship was important for both men and with youthful spirit they dreamed of successful careers in the Paris art world, Cézanne as a painter and Zola as a writer. Consequently, Cézanne began to study painting and drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix in 1856. His father was against the pursuit of an artistic career, and in 1858 he persuaded Cézanne to enter law school at the University of Aix. Although Paul Cézanne continued his law studies for several years, at the same time he was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix, where he remained until 1861. In 1861 Paul Cézanne finally convinced his father to allow him to go to Paris, France.
In Paris Paul Cézanne frequented the Louvre, where he met fellow artists such as Camille Pissarro and, later on, Claude Monet, Sisley, Bazille and Pierre Renoir. In September of the same year Paul Cézanne was refused admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and went back to Aix, to the great relief of his father, who offered him a position in his bank. But in November 1862 Paul Cézanne went back to Paris and took up painting again. Cezanne became acquainted with the revolutionary work of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet. Paul Cézanne also admired the fiery romanticism of Eugène Delacroix's paintings. But he was never entirely comfortable with Parisian life and periodically returned to Aix, where he could work in relative isolation. He retreated there, for instance, during the Franco-Prussian War.
Paul Cézanne's paintings from the 1860s are peculiar, bearing little overt resemblance to the artist's mature and more important style. The subject matter is brooding and melancholy and includes fantasies, dreams, religious images, and a general preoccupation with the macabre. His technique in these early paintings is similarly romantic, often impassioned. In the "Man in a Blue Cap" pigments have been applied with a palette knife and the surface is everywhere dense with impasto. The same qualities characterize the weird "Washing of a Corpse" (1867-1869), which seems to picture the events in a morgue and to be a pietà as well.
In 1872 Paul Cézanne moved to Pontoise, France, where he spent two years working very closely with Pissarro. During this period Cézanne became convinced that one must paint directly from nature. The result was that romantic and religious subjects began to disappear from his canvases. In addition, the dark range of Paul Cézanne's color palette began to give way to fresher, more vibrant colors. Cézanne, as a direct result of his stay in Pontoise, decided to participate in the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs in 1874. Radical artists who had been constantly rejected by the official salons organized this historic exhibition. It inspired the term "impressionism," a revolutionary art form where the "impression" of a scene or object is generated and light is simulated by primary colors.
After 1877 Paul Cézanne gradually withdrew from the impressionists and worked in increasing isolation at his home in southern France. This withdrawal was linked with two factors. First, the more personal direction his work began to take, a direction not taken by the other impressionists. Second, the disappointing responses that Paul Cézanne's art continued to generate among the public at large. In fact, Cézanne did not show his art publicly for almost twenty years after the third impressionist show. In 1886 after his father’s death, Cézanne married Hortense Fiquet, with whom he had a secret liaison since 1870. She is said to look after the finished canvases, which Cézanne never took care to keep and abandoned as soon as he completed the painting. The same year Paul Cézanne quarreled with Zola over the novel “L’Oeuvre”, in which the central figure, an unsuccessful and unbalanced painter, was identified with Cézanne.
Paul Cézanne's isolation in Aix began to lessen during the 1890s. In 1895, owing largely to the urging of Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir, the dealer Ambroise Vollard showed a large number of Paul Cézanne paintings, and public interest in his work slowly began to develop. In 1904 Paul Cezanne was given an entire room at the Salon d'Automne. While painting outdoors in the fall of 1906 Cézanne was overtaken by a storm and became ill. Paul Cézanne died in Aix on October 22, 1906. At the Salon d'Automne of 1907 his achievement was honored with a large retrospective exhibition.
Paul Cézanne's paintings from the last twenty-five years of his life led to the development of modern art. A fascinating aspect of Cézanne's style in the 1860s is its sense of energy. Although the works are groping and uncertain in comparison to the artist's later expressions, they nevertheless reveal a profound depth of feeling. Each painting seems ready to explode its limits and its surface. Moreover, each seems the conception of an artist who could be either madman or genius. Although Paul Cézanne received encouragement from Pissarro and some of the other impressionists during the 1860s and enjoyed the occasional critical backing of his friend Zola, his pictures were consistently rejected by the annual Salons and frequently inspired more ridicule than did the early efforts of other experimenters in the same generation. Working slowly and patiently, Paul Cézanne developed a style that has affected almost every radical phase of twentieth-century art.