Paul Cézanne Biography
Paul Cézanne was a French painter, ascribed to post-impressionism and considered a fundamental influence for 20th and 21st-century art. He was born in the city of Aix-en-Provence, France, on January 19, 1839, and died in the same city, on October 22, 1906. During his life, Paul Cézanne did not receive much recognition. In his last decades, he developed asocial tendencies and preferred to isolate himself to paint. His work was later praised by the expressionist movement. Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse admired him, also the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Paul Cézanne is credited with the phrase:
“When I judge art, I take my picture and put it next to an object that is the work of God, like a tree or a flower. If out of tune, it is not art.”
Paul Cézanne’s parents were Anne Elisabeth Honorine Aubert and banker Louis Auguste Cézanne. He had two sisters: Marie and Rose. In his childhood, he studied in the School of Saint Joseph, in Aix. Then at Collège Bourbon, where he became friends with Émile Zola. To please his father, Cézanne tried to start a financial career, studied law at the University of Aix-Marseille; his mother, on the contrary, would always support his artistic inclination. In 1861, against the wishes of Louis Auguste Cézanne, the young man undertook a trip to Paris. Soon, the father would decide to financially support his son, favoring the living conditions.
Paul Cézanne attended the Swiss Academy in Paris and was rejected at the École des Beaux-Arts. It is probable that he felt disappointed, but he did not abandon his attempts. From that time his artistic devotion and later friendship with Camille Pissarro, who convinced him to use “more alive and less somber” colors, is well known; Cézanne painted landscapes in the company of Pissarro. The works of Caravaggio and Velázquez served as an influence, also those of Eugène Delacroix and Édouard Manet.
In his beginnings, the Salon de Paris rejected most of his works. In 1869, Paul Cézanne met Marie Hortense Fiquet, with whom he would marry many years later; she would die in 1922. In 1870, the couple traveled to Marseilles, to avoid the recruitment of Cézanne and a march to the Franco-Prussian War; then they returned to Paris, where their son Paul was born, in 1872. During that decade, the French painter was admitted to the Impressionist movement.
In 1874, he exhibited three works in a relatively private exhibition, the paintings were: A modern Olympia, Landscape of Auvers-Sur-Oise and The house of the hanged. However, his creations continued to be criticized; the painter withdrew from the Impressionist group. In 1878, his father would find out about his relationship with Marie Hortense, almost ten years later. Cézanne sold few paintings. In 1881, his father built a studio for him, in Aix-en-Provence; thus, the family moved to that city. In that same year, Cézanne met Gauguin and seemed to distance himself definitively from the Impressionists.
In 1882, he succeeded in exhibiting in the Salon de Paris an old work, of 1866, entitled: «Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cézanne» in it, a person reads the newspaper ‘l’Evénement. Manet’s death would make him sad too. And already in 1886, the painter and Marie Hortense were married. In that year his father died, leaving him an inheritance that meant a dreamed independence in monetary terms. Also, at that time, Paul Cézanne stopped seeing himself with Émile Zola. Rumors claim that the painter was upset because Zola wrote a play where one of the protagonists was based on him.
Cézanne would spend the 1890s practically alone, isolated and far from his family, devoting himself to painting. Since then, the relationship with his wife was going through a deep crisis, so much so that, as early as 1900, Cézanne planned to leave his assets exclusively to his son and not to her. In 1897, his mother died. At that time, the critics and the exhibition halls began to admit a greater number of their works.
The work of Cézanne focused an attempt to portray everyday life as only he could observe it, beyond the pre-established themes; this pretension intensified in his post-impressionist period. One of his clear marks was to try to represent objects from different perspectives (for example, the left eye and the right), but in a single image, that is, at the same time. Thus, it is probable to affirm that Cézanne was also a scholar of visual phenomena. The rest of his paintings also presented slight naturalistic characteristics.
The use of the simplest forms would influence Pablo Picasso and cubism; to Cézanne the following approach is attributed to him, elementary for the later development of the same one: “Everything in nature is modeled according to the sphere, the cone, the cylinder. You have to learn to paint based on these simple figures then you can do everything you want.”
Paul Cézanne painted until it became impossible. After undergoing a severe storm, while working in one of his studies, he contracted pneumonia. The disease ended up killing him, on October 22, 1906. He was 67 years old at the time of his death.
His most recognized works are: «The murder» of 1870; «The mountain of Sainte Victoire» painted between 1885 and 1887; «Mrs. Cézanne in the red chair» from 1877; «Tuesday of Carnival» of 1888; «The child in the red vest» conceived between 1889 and 1890; «Basket of apples» of 1893; “Still life with curtain” and “The card players” both from 1895; «The great bathers» created between 1900 and 1905; «Pyramid of Skulls» of 1901; and “Bottle, carafe, jug and lemons” achieved between 1902 and 1906.