Paul Cezanne (19 January 1839 - 22 October 1906) was a 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. Cezanne's often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cezanne's intense study of his subjects.Cezanne is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cezanne "is the father of us all."
The Cezannes came from the town of Saint-Sauveur (Hautes-Alpes). Paul Cezanne was born on 19 January 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, in Provence in the South of France. On 22 February, he was baptized in the Eglise de la Madeleine, with his grandmother and uncle Louis as godparents, and became a devout Catholic later in life.At the age of ten Cezanne entered the Saint Joseph school in Aix.In 1852 Cezanne entered the College Bourbon (now College Mignet), where he met and became friends with Emile Zola, who was in a less advanced class, as well as Baptistin Baillethree friends who came to be known as "les trois inseparables" (the three inseparables). He stayed there for six years, though in the last two years he was a day scholar. In 1857 he began attending the Free Municipal School of Drawing in Aix, where he studied drawing under Joseph Gibert, a Spanish monk. From 1858 to 1861, complying with his father's wishes, Cezanne attended the law school of the University of Aix, while also receiving drawing lessons.
Going against the objections of his banker father, he committed himself to pursuing his artistic development and left Aix for Paris in 1861. He was strongly encouraged to make this decision by Zola, who was already living in the capital at the time. Eventually, his father reconciled with Cezanne and supported his choice of career. Cezanne later received an inheritance of 400,000 francs from his father, which rid him of all financial worries.In Paris, Cezanne met the Impressionist Camille Pissarro. Initially the friendship formed in the mid-1860s between Pissarro and Cezanne was that of master and disciple, in which Pissarro exerted a formative influence on the younger artist. Over the course of the following decade their landscape painting excursions together, in Louveciennes and Pontoise, led to a collaborative working relationship between equals.
Cezanne's early work is often concerned with the figure in the landscape and includes many paintings of groups of large, heavy figures in the landscape, imaginatively painted. Later in his career, he became more interested in working from direct observation and gradually developed a light, airy painting style. Nevertheless, in Cezanne's mature work there is the development of a solidified, almost architectural style of painting. Throughout his life he struggled to develop an authentic observation of the seen world by the most accurate method of representing it in paint that he could find. To this end, he structurally ordered whatever he perceived into simple forms and colour planes. His statement "I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums", and his contention that he was recreating Poussin "after nature" underscored his desire to unite observation of nature with the permanence of classical composition.
Cezanne's paintings were shown in the first exhibition of the Salon des Refuses in 1863, which displayed works not accepted by the jury of the official Paris Salon. The Salon rejected Cezanne's submissions every year from 1864 to 1869. He continued to submit works to the Salon until 1882. In that year, through the intervention of fellow artist Antoine Guillemet, he exhibited Portrait de M. L. A., probably Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cezanne, The Artist's Father, Reading "L'Evenement", 1866 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), his first and last successful submission to the Salon.Still Life with a Curtain (1895) illustrates Cezanne's increasing trend towards terse compression of forms and dynamic tension between geometric figures.
Before 1895 Cezanne exhibited twice with the Impressionists (at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877). In later years a few individual paintings were shown at various venues, until 1895, when the Parisian dealer, Ambroise Vollard, gave the artist his first solo exhibition. Despite the increasing public recognition and financial success, Cezanne chose to work in increasing artistic isolation, usually painting in the south of France, in his beloved Provence, far from Paris.
He concentrated on a few subjects and was equally proficient in each of these genres: still lifes, portraits, landscapes and studies of bathers. For the last, Cezanne was compelled to design from his imagination, due to a lack of available nude models. Like the landscapes, his portraits were drawn from that which was familiar, so that not only his wife and son but local peasants, children and his art dealer served as subjects. His still lifes are at once decorative in design, painted with thick, flat surfaces, yet with a weight reminiscent of Gustave Courbet. The 'props' for his works are still to be found, as he left them, in his studio (atelier), in the suburbs of modern Aix.
Cezanne's paintings were not well received among the petty bourgeoisie of Aix. In 1903 Henri Rochefort visited the auction of paintings that had been in Zola's possession and published on 9 March 1903 in L'Intransigeant a highly critical article entitled "Love for the Ugly". Rochefort describes how spectators had supposedly experienced laughing fits, when seeing the paintings of "an ultra-impressionist named Cezanne". Erroneously believing that Cezanne's paintings in fact represented "the art dear to Zola" (Rochefort's Dreyfusard arch-enemy), he drew connections between "Dreyfusard snobs," so-called after the French officer who was accused but innocent of having sold defense plans to Germany, and Zola's supposedly cherished artist, Cezanne. The public in Aix was outraged, and for many days, copies of L'Intransigeant appeared on Cezanne's door-mat with messages asking him to leave the town "he was dishonouring".
One day, Cezanne was caught in a storm while working in the field. Only after working for two hours under a downpour did he decide to go home; but on the way he collapsed. He was taken home by a passing driver. His old housekeeper rubbed his arms and legs to restore the circulation; as a result, he regained consciousness. On the following day, he intended to continue working, but later on he fainted; the model with whom he was working called for help; he was put to bed, and he never left it. He died a few days later, on 22 October 1906 of pneumonia and was buried at the Saint-Pierre Cemetery in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence.