Paul Cézanne

Paul Cezanne - Self Portrait

Paul Cézanne French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century.

 Paul Cézanne was born to a wealthy family in Aix-en-Provence, France. His father was a successful banker whose riches assisted Cézanne throughout his life and his mother was a romantic who supported her son's career.

In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon where he met his good friends Émile Zola and Baptistin Baille. The three were famously close for a long period of time. After a classical education in Aix-en-Provence Paul Cézanne's father wished him to become a lawyer. However after attending law school for two years (whilst receiving art lessons) he could not bear the thought of continuing his education and left for Paris.

In Paris Paul Cézanne spent a large period of his time with Émile Zola, a French writer. He enrolled at the Académie Suisse, which is where he met his mentor, Camille Pissarro. After five months of trying to work as a painter in Paris, France, to no critical success, Cézanne returned to Aix-en-Provence at his father's request.

In his home town Paul Cézanne enrolled at the local art school and attempted to work as a banker but was also unsuccessful in this venture. Consequently in 1862 he returned to Paris to work as a painter. Disappointingly he failed the entrance exam to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts but continued to work between Paris and Aix-en-Provence and submitted many of his works to the Salon jury.

In 1869 Cézanne Met Mrie-Hortense Fiquet at an art school in Paris called Académie Suisse. Fiquet's main job was as a bookseller or bookbinder, but she combined this with part-time work as a model. They started a relationship and when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, they left Paris together for L'Estaque in the south of France. Afraid of offending his father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, a well-to-do banker, and compromising his allowance, he went to great lengths to conceal his liaison with Fiquet. The existence of their child Paul, born in 1872, was kept from Louis-Auguste for some years.

Portrait of the Artist's Son - Paul Cezanne

Paul Cézanne's work was misunderstood by his contemporaries. A shy man who worked a great deal in Aix-en-Provence, the home town where he was born and raised, Cézanne moved Paris when he was young and, despite his father's wishes, pursued a career in art rather than law.

Cézanne was a modern artist whose work was a precursor for Cubism and Fauvism. His compositions were usually dark in tone and he often chose to work inside rather than en plein air.

Cézanne didn't receive critical acclaim until very late in his life and after his first solo exhibition. He never formed close friendships with many of his fellow artists but before he died there was a great deal of interest in his works.

Paul Cézanne's modern style and technique was avant-garde and therefore misunderstood for many years. Even the other breakthrough artists of his era, the Impressionists, were dismissive of Cézanne's progressive style and method. After the first Impressionist exhibition many of them petitioned to have him banned from the other shows because Cézanne's compositions were too controversial.

Camille Pissarro
Cézanne worked with thickly placed layers of paint and undefined forms and attempted to simplify everything into shapes that could be broken down. Although he was close with the Impressionist Camille Pissarro, and influenced by Pissarro's en plein air style of painting Cézanne was not an Impressionist. He was a highly modern artist who did not fit into any one category of painting style. His style was a precursor for the fauvism and cubism movements.

In 1872 Paul Cézanne was living in Pontoise, France with Hortense Fiquet and his newborn son Paul (whom his father did not know about). Cézanne was still enthusiastically working on his paintings and was spending time outside with his idol, Camille Pissarro.

In Pontoise Paul Cézanne met Dr Paul Gachet, who was an admirer of his work and thus spent the years of 1872 to 1874 living at Gachet's home in Auvers-sur-Oise.

In 1873 Cézanne met Vincent van Gogh and in 1874 he exhibited at the Impressionist's first showcase. Cézanne's work was highly criticized along with the Impressionist's paintings but Cezanne's paintings were disliked by the other painters too. Cézanne's compositions from this period of working close to Camille Pissarro reveal that he was slightly influenced by the Impressionist's en plein air style of painting.

In 1877 Cézanne showcased 16 of his paintings to a great deal of scorn from critics and vowed never again to show his work at an Impressionist's exhibition. Although still influenced by Pissarro's Impressionist style Cézanne continued to work inside his studio and didn't believe in always painting from nature.

Emile Zola

In March 1878, Cézanne's father found out about Hortense and threatened to cut Cézanne off financially, but, in September, he relented and decided to give him 400 francs for his family. 

In the early 1880s Cezanne started to move even further away from the Impressionist's style of painting. The year 1886 was a turning point for the family. Cézanne married Hortense and He fell out with Emile Zola because of his interpretation of Zola's novel, L'Oeuvre, and the two never saw each other again. In 1886 Cezanne married his mistress and inherited a large estate from his father, meaning he never had to worry about making money from his art.

In November 1895 Paul Cézanne held his first solo exhibition in Paris and Ambroise Vollard bought every artwork. He then moved to Aix-en-Provence permanently.

View of the 1904 Salon d'Automne, photograph by Ambroise Vollard, Salle Cézanne (Victor Choquet, Baigneuses, etc.)

In the early 1900s his work was shown all around Europe to wide critical acclaim but throughout his life Cézanne was shy and hostile towards other painters and he maintained this attitude. He died in October 1906 of pneumonia and is buried in the cemetery in Aix-en-Provence.

Sources: Wikipedia and Artable

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