Born in 1839, Paul Cezanne was a French painter who is famous all across the world. He was one of the most prominent painters of the Post-Impressionism movement. In fact, he helped give rise to the movement when he expressed his artistic viewpoints in public.
His work was known for being experimental, and his paintings influenced numerous twentieth-century artists and art movements, including Cubism which emerged as a revolutionary new approach to representing reality.
Cézanne’s art grew out of Impressionism, which valued the depiction of light, color, and movement. His unique style challenged all conventional painting values in the nineteenth century because of his conviction on personal expression.
He believed in painting from his imagination rather than from nature and insisted on painting from life rather than from photographs. This article will take a sneak peek at Paul Cézanne’s artistic life and some of his best works.
Famous post impressionist artist Paul Cezanne was born into a prosperous bourgeois family. At the Collège Bourbon in Aix, he acquired a classical education. In 1858, at nineteen, Cézanne enrolled at the University of Aix-en-law Provence’s school at his father’s request. A successful banker, who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, he proposed that Paul study law and become a lawyer. However, due to a lack of interest and his unwillingness to abide by his father’s wishes, he left after two years without a degree.
Cézanne then stayed in Paris for five months, where he encountered a difficult time of despair because he was not as skilled as other students in his training at the Académie Suisse, where he began his training. Nevertheless, mainly due to Émile Zola’s (Paul’s close acquaintance) motivation, did he stay as long as he did.
When famous painter Cézanne returned to Aix, he tried again to be content with employment at his father’s bank. However, after a year, he returned to Paris with a firmer resolve to stay. Cézanne alternated between residing in Paris and visiting Aix during his formative years, from 1858 to 1872.
Cézanne established his mature style during a time of isolation in the late 1870s and early 1890s. The Sea at L’Estaque (1878–79), for example, is considered one of Cézanne’s earliest masterpieces.
The landscapes feature big and serene horizontals, with even up-and-down strokes creating a crisp prismatic effect and an unyielding blue sea sweeping across the canvases. Like many of his mature landscapes, these paintings have the fascinating and new characteristic of simultaneously depicting deep space and a flat design. Cézanne knew how to convey solidity and depth, and his technique was similar to that of the Impressionists in indicating form.
The artist quoted, “I seek to render perspective only through color.” In his works, he sought to give perspective to places, people, and the things he painted through his painting style. Paul Cezzane knew how to pinpoint the delicate details that made a painting shine. To paint a mass, the painter must first understand its essential elements, what makes it up, and how it looks in context. His works demonstrate his keen visual exploration of the subject, with a flair for creating the light in a scene and creating texture that almost seems palpable.
Structure and Solidity of Cezanne’s Paintings
Cézanne began painting Impressionist light effects on various surfaces in 1872, influenced by Pissarro. He was even included in the inaugural Impressionist exhibit of 1874, though he refused to be categorized as an Impressionist. Instead, he was concerned with firmness and structure and renounced Impressionism in 1877.
Cézanne does not respond to the flickering light in Le Château Noir as an Impressionist might; instead, he draws it from deep inside the substance of every component in the painting. As a result, every form has a genuine firmness, an absolute inherent power that is never weakened to benefit another element in the composition.
Cézanne’s most simple topics are profoundly rewarding and exciting because of the conflict between truth and illusion, depiction and abstraction, reality and creation, which offered a legacy for a form of revolution that led the way for modern art.
Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne, is arguably one of the most heralded painters of his era. This is because his marriage coincided with a period when he began to be more intentional about painting. It is, however, quite notable that he spent ample time in Impressionism before having to leave the style of painting.
Cézanne fled Paris for Provence in July 1870, as the Franco-German War broke out, partially to avoid being enlisted. Marie-Hortense Fiquet, a young lady who had become his mistress the year before and whom he married in 1886, accompanied him. The Cézannes settled in Estaque, a little village near Marseille on the southern French coast. He began painting landscapes there, attempting to capture nature faithfully while also expressing the emotions it evoked in him.
He began to approach his subjects in the same way as his Impressionist contemporaries did; in two landscapes from this period, Snow at Estaque (1870–71) and The Wine Market (1872), the composition is similar to his early style but more disciplined and attentive to the atmospheric, rather than dramatic, quality of light.
After two Impressionist exhibitions, Painter Cezanne was shocked at the negative response that followed his works, and as a result, he had to cut ties with the movement. This paid him off in the long run, as he became highly revered in the following art movement, post-Impressionism. He did well to maintain friendships with his Impressionist painter friends like Monet and Pissarro.
Painting: The Bathers
The Bathers was one of Paul Cezanne’s earliest works to be exhibited, and it remains one of his most acclaimed. This masterpiece shows the influence of Dutch painting on the artist and the development of a unique style that would revolutionize modern art.
This painting, considered a masterpiece of contemporary art and Cezanne’s finest work, set the path for future painters to break from convention, bridging the gap between Post-Impressionism and twentieth-century art trends. It was also included in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Paintings series.
This work was painted between 1898 and 1905, towards the end of his career, but it most definitely stands out amidst all his works. The scene is primarily blue— a soft haze where sky, water, and flora combine, with the wonderfully drawn figures of bathers being overshadowed by this color.
The abstract nude females in Large Bathers provide tension and intensity to the artwork. With the naked shapes adapting to the triangular pattern exemplified by the trees and river, it stands out among his work in symmetrical dimensions. Large Bathers is evocative of Titian and Peter Paul Rubens’ works in the same method used in landscape and still life painting.
This piece has given a small taste of the early life and painting style of Paul Cezanne. It also explains how he developed into one of history’s greatest painters. Finally, it is a teaser of what happened in the life of a painter who produced many masterpieces and was grossly underappreciated in his lifetime. You can learn more about his life by reading his biography and other online resources.