Exploring The Life And Art Of Paul Cézanne

In the mid-19th century in Paris, the development of production and the acceleration of industrialization powerfully influenced the way of life in general, grounding the international importance of French art by placing it as a leader in new taste trends and aesthetics. At this time, Impressionism as a new artistic movement was being born, in search of its own language by questioning conventional elements of style and content in paintings, however, despite increasing popularity and dissemination, the French painter, Paul Cézanne, failed to adapt into the impressionist creation form. The estrangement from Impressionism and his complex and stubborn personality contributed to becoming a key figure in the artistic transition to modern art.

Paul Cézanne with only 22 years old in April 1861, arrived in Paris where he started a strong friendship with Camille Pissarro. He already had a classic solid education received at the school of Aix, despite his father's wishes of his son becoming a banker, Cézanne already had a unique and clear objective, to dedicate his soul to art. The first decade in his early artistic career was characterized by the impetuousness and impulsiveness of his paintings, in which his fluctuating mood swings and sensibility were reflected, 'My hair is longer than my talent,' Cézanne complained. As can be seen in his paintings, The murder and The Artist's Father with a palette made up of dark and opaque colors and the creation of violently formed shapes and thick textures, paintings that give a sense of his tumultuous emontions. Unlike impressionist artists who were fascinated by the interaction of light and color, who did not use black. Initially, he did not intend to follow the Impressionist movement or the most essential thing that characterized it, that is the work in plein air, 'in the open air', however, in 1865 he and Pissarro, began to paint together outdoors in villages outside Paris. And with this, the painter ventured into the impressionistic mix of the richness of color reflections revealed by light, and in new ways of applying paint, using both brushes and palette knives.

The painter began a romantic relationship in 1869 with a woman named Marie Hortense Fiquet, with whom, later on, had a son, however, he had to hide both his relationship and the birth of his son from his father, as they were really estranged due to his father's opinion regarding his son's artistic profession.

From 1870 Cézanne's paintings were marked by the fact that he moved to L'Estaque in the South of France and his close relationship with Pissarro, who urged him to 'adopt a brighter palette, as well as to abandon the heavy and ponderous impasto technique in favor of smaller and livelier brushstrokes.' Here Cézanne executed a series of landscapes dominated by the architectonic forms, giving emphasis on the spatial treatment of light and air, without losing the richness of objects and colors of reality. It was in this new process that Cézanne was trying to enter the Impressionist circle, the artist painted one of the most scandalous works, A Modern Olympia, this painting was exposed during the first exhibition of the Impressionists in 1874, in which Cézanne first became famous, the creation embodies an erotic and theatrical character in the scene, conformed of a nude woman, uncovered by her black servant, and a man that appears to be Cézanne. A Modern Olympia, was created as a replica of Manet's Olympia, it was perceived as some kind of parody of Manet's paint and aimed as a protest to his battle against Impressionism and Manet. Cézanne's canvas received a lot of harsh opinions by both the public and critics, he never participated in an Impressionist exhibition again and reduced contact with his old friends.

At the end of the 1870s and the beginning of the 1880s, Cézanne lived much of the time in Aix and its surroundings, Cézanne's experience with painting from nature, his great inner dynamism and deep temporal dimension led him to develop his own approaches to art. Maincy Bridge is one of the first works in which you can appreciate a mature and consistent personal style. As he began separating away from Impressionism, Cézanne started experimenting on new ways to stimulate the eye, 'I wanted to make out of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art of the museums,” the artist claimed.

In the 1880's, Cézanne executed a large number of variations of fruits, crockery, vases and tablecloths, anything that could be considered as still life and that could be painted in detail for a long time. The central feature of still life was the crucial shift of attention from the objects themselves, as can be seen in Still Life with Apples, the artist builds the shape of the objects with the help of the warm tones reaching and the cold ones receding. In Cézanne's mature pictures, even a simple apple might display a distinctly two-dimensional mode, you can not perceive from what angle the artwork was painted giving the illusion that the subjects were examined by several angles, he wanted to constitute a 'parallel harmony to nature'.

On 1886, he married his partner Hortense Fiquet and after the death of his father, Cézanne inherited 400,000 francs which provided him with economic independence, for 47 years the painter received a monthly sum from his father since he could not live off his artwork.

Since the beginning of the 1890s to his death he lived in Aix, traveling from time to time to Paris to visit his family, irritable and insecure even in front of his friends and family, his reaction to the environment around him was to become increasingly solitary, even his wife became a stranger. He also often painted his favorite mountain, Mont Sainte-Victoire, from different perspectives. Cézanne applied his pigments to the canvas in methodical brushstrokes as if he was 'constructing' a picture rather than 'painting' it. In the painting Mont Sainte-Victoire, rocks and trees are suggested by mere daubs of paint as opposed to being extensively portrayed, he used only geometric forms eliminating everything unnecessary from the landscape. Cézanne's mature work consisted of the use of basic geometric equivalents, utilizing contrasts of color and considerable distortion to express the essence of landscape, rather than the illusion.

On October 15, 1906, Cézanne got up early as usual to go and paint his beloved mountain refusing to take a coach and carried all his equipment by himself, while he worked, he was caught in a sudden thunderstorm, soaked and tired while on his way home he collapsed, a passerby picked him up and took him to his home. Over the next days his health was deteriorating, the artist died from pneumonia on October 22, 1906.

Paul Cézanne's artwork was and remains transcendental and extraordinary, he managed to renew Impressionism by creating a new synthesis of colors, a new approach to perspective and volume, influencing the course of modern art, particularly on the development of cubism. Its new way of comprehending the world through art by liberating form from color, would eventually lead Pablo Picasso to call Cézanne 'the father of us all.'

Works Cited

  1. Brodskaya, Nathalia. Cézanne. Parkstone International, 2011.
  2. “Paul Cézanne Biography, Life & Quotes.” The Art Story, The Art Story Foundation, www.theartstory.org/artist/cezanne-paul/life-and-legacy/#legacy_header.
  3. “Paul Cézanne.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, May 2019, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=134508069&site=ehost-live.
  4. Walther, Ingo F and Beatrice von Bismarck. Impressionist Art: 1860 - 1920. Taschen, 2010
09 March 2021
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