painter, one of the greatest of the Postimpressionists, whose works and ideas
were influential in the aesthetic development of many 20th-century artists and
art movements, especially Cubism. Cézanne's art, misunderstood and
discredited by the public during most of his life, grew out of Impressionism
and eventually challenged all the conventional values of painting in the 19th
century through its insistence on personal expression and on the integrity of
the painting itself. He has been called the father of modern painting.
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.
was a contemporary of the 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.''
was born at Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on Jan. 19, 1839. He went to
school in Aix, forming a close friendship with the novelist Emile Zola. He also
studied law there from 1859 to 1861, but at the same time he continued
attending drawing classes. Against the implacable resistance of his father, he
made up his mind that he wanted to paint and in 1861 joined Zola in Paris. His
father's reluctant consent at that time brought him financial support and,
later, a large inheritance on which he could live without difficulty. In Paris
he met Camille Pissarro and came to know others of the impressionist group,
with whom he would exhibit in 1874 and 1877. Cézanne, however, remained
an outsider to their circle; from 1864 to 1869 he submitted his work to the
official SALON and saw it consistently rejected. His paintings of 1865-70 form
what is usually called his early ``romantic'' period. Extremely personal in
character, it deals with bizarre subjects of violence and fantasy in harsh,
somber colors and extremely heavy paintwork.
as Cézanne rejected that kind of approach and worked his way out of the
obsessions underlying it, his art is conveniently divided into three phases. In
the early 1870s, through a mutually helpful association with Pissarro, with
whom he painted outside Paris at Auvers, he assimilated the principles of color
and lighting of Impressionism and loosened up his brushwork; yet he retained
his own sense of mass and the interaction of planes, as in House of the
Hanged Man (1873; Musee d'Orsay, Paris).
the late 1870s Cézanne entered the phase known as ``constructive,''
characterized by the grouping of parallel, hatched brushstrokes in formations
that build up a sense of mass in themselves. He continued in this style until
the early 1890s, when, in his series of paintings titled Card Players
(1890-92), the upward curvature of the players' backs creates a sense of
architectural solidity and thrust, and the intervals between figures and
objects have the appearance of live cells of space and atmosphere.
living as a solitary in Aix rather than alternating between the south and
Paris, Cézanne moved into his late phase. Now he concentrated on a few
basic subjects: still lifes of studio objects built around such recurring
elements as apples, statuary, and tablecloths; studies of bathers, based upon
the male model and drawing upon a combination of memory, earlier studies, and
sources in the art of the past; and successive views of the Mont
Sainte-Victoire, a nearby landmark, painted from his studio looking across the
intervening valley. The landscapes of the final years, much affected by
Cézanne's contemporaneous practice in watercolor, have a more
transparent and unfinished look, while the last figure paintings are at once
more somber and spiritual in mood. By the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1906,
Cézanne's art had begun to be shown and seen across Europe, and it
became a fundamental influence on the Fauves, the cubists, and virtually all
advanced art of the early 20th century.
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