Paul Cézanne Biography | Oil Paintings
1-19-1839 Aix-en-Provence, FRA - 10-22-1906 Aix-en-Provence, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Born in Aix-en-Provence, the son of a banker, Paul Cézanne’s prosperous bourgeois family background enabled him to endure the long struggle for recognition. The young Cezanne enrolled in law school at his father's urging, but he soon became dissatisfied and moved to Paris. He studied in Paris, where he met the future members of the Impressionist circle. Here he was exposed to the movement, but his profound respect for the paintings of the past made him a little inclined to abandon himself to the pure pleasure of light and color. His early vigor, expressed in broad, somber brushstrokes, became increasingly controlled and subtle. Although his own work at this time was full of violent, Romantic imagery, Paul Cézanne did not mix easily with the group; he was withdrawn, suspicious and prey to sudden rages.
Gradually, with Pissarro’s encouragement, he tried Plein-air painting and participated at two of the Impressionist exhibitions. But, in the art as in life, Paul Cézanne was a solitary figure and he soon found the principles of the movement too restricting. Over the years, Cezanne moved away from the Impressionists. He conceived painting not as an “impression” of light and color, but as a cerebral construction of regular, geometric solids. Ignoring the texture of surfaces (glazed pottery, cloth, unfinished wood and fruit peel), and rejecting the rules of linear perspective, Cezanne depicts fruit and objects in Still Life With Peaches And Pears as regular, geometric solids, paving the way for Cubism.
The monumental female nudes are inspired by a long history of precedents, beginning with the mythological Renaissance scenes of Diana bathing, and extending through a good part of the nineteenth century in France to Ingres and Manet. Cezanne represents a turning point in the history of modern painting, in Bathers Les Grandes Baigneuse, he explicitly anticipates the simplification of volumes typical of Cubism as well as the Expressionist emphasis on the outline.
Cezanne, "To do Poussin again from nature.”
The large, wide-open landscapes of his mature period convey the meaning of the project Cezanne had set for himself: "to do Poussin again from nature.” These two underlying choices, the use of past art as a formal model, and use of nature's own luminosity might have remained generic characteristics, applicable to other painters as well if Cezanne had not added his own exceptional talent for synthesizing volume and color.
From the 1880's onward, he limited his subjects to portraits of his family, self-portraits, still lifes, and landscapes of particular locations. Just like Turner did with Mount Rigi and Monet with Grainstacks, the Houses of Parliament, and the Cliffs of Etretat. Mont Sainte Victoire in Provence was one of the locations for Cezanne. The massive, squat outline of the mountain, visible from the window of his studio, is a looming presence through the painter's mature and late work. It provides an excellent demonstration of his capacity to concentrate on a single theme and approach it analytically, with the patience and meticulousness of a chess player, in the search for increasingly effective solutions. The many paintings he did of Mont Sainte-Victoire, illustrated his abandonment of Impressionism and the faithful representation of reality in favor of a deliberate disintegration, to the point where the landscape becomes a mere pretext for exercises in composition. The paintings communicate a feeling of restless dissatisfaction and a need to explore, eroding the luminous reassurance of the Impressionists. Forms are increasingly rendered as simple geometric patterns, in an atmospheric light that is bright and refulgent.
Study Mont Sainte-Victoire to know how Cubism started.
After his father’s death in 1886, Paul Cézanne returned to Aix, where he brought his style to maturity. His aim was to produce ‘constructions after nature’. He followed the Impressionist practice of painting outdoors but, instead of the transient effects which they sought, he tried to capture the underlying geometry of the natural world. This was to make him a fertile source of inspiration for the Cubists.
The first rendition, Mont Sainte-Victoire 1885, convey the meaning of the project Cezanne had set for himself: “To do Poussin again from nature”. The distant viewpoint that opens out onto a light-filled vista can be seen as an allusion to the great paintings of the seventeenth century, where the light and colors recall Impressionism.
In this version, Mont Sainte-Victoire 1888, the form of the mountain begins to lose solidity. Here, the artist has chosen a closer viewpoint and has eliminated the pine tree that framed the previous canvas. As a result, the image loses its “picturesque” and descriptive values.
A decade later, Mont Sainte-Victoire 1897, the image has undergone further simplification. The tree trunks and lines of the landscape begin to form a regular grid. Nature is observed through the rigorous filter of an inner geometry, though the artist's interest in atmospheric luminosity is still evident.
This painting Mont Sainte-Victoire 1904, is one of the final variations on the Mont Sainte-Victoire landscape. Unlike his other works, Cezanne's range of colors here is somewhat dark. The geological solidity of the mountain and the countryside below is broken up into large, regular patches of color, and the artist has even left some unpainted canvas visible.
Respected by painters but little known to the public, it was not until his death that Cezanne received recognition for his pivotal role in anticipating Twentieth-century art. Paul Cézanne in this manner started one of the most revolutionary artistic inquiries of the twentieth century, one which was to influence significantly and anticipate the development of Cubism with rearrangements and simplification of volumes, and Expressionism with emphasis on outlines, and future Modern Art.
Art Movement History: Impressionism, Cubism.
Artists Influencing Paul Cezanne: Camille Pissarro, Tintoretto, Crespi, Francisco Goya, Gustave Courbet, Eugene Delacroix.
Painters Paul Cezanne Influenced: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, Edgar Degas, Pierre Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Kazimir Malevich, Georges Rouault, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse.
Look at our THEN & NOW photo section. See, the present day location that inspired the famous artist John Constable. We travel the world to find the exact location where the artist set up his easel to paint. We photograph it as it appears today. Now, you can compare side by side photos of the original oil painting and the present-day location.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.