Photo of Paul Cézanne taken in 1861
French artist and Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) is credited with works that laid the foundations of transition from the 19th century concept of art to a radically different art form of the 20th century. Cezanne is also considered as the bridge between Impressionism and the early stages of Cubism.
Paul Cezanne's works symbolize mastery of design, colour, composition and draftsmanship, and a style dominated by repetitive, sensitive and exploratory brushstrokes. He used vibrant colors and brushstrokes that built up the perceptions for the observers’ eyes, from an abstraction of the observed nature, thereby exploring the complexity of human visual perception.
At the age of ten, Paul Cezanne entered the Saint Joseph school in Aix where he studied drawing under the Spanish monk Joseph Gibert. In 1852 Cézanne joined the College Bourbon (now College Mignet) where he became friends with Emile Zola and Baptistin Baille.
His early work is often concerned with figures and landscapes. Later, he became more interested in painting from direct observations. 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. For this, he structurally incorporated whatever he perceived into simple forms and colour planes.
Cezanne tried to simplify whatever he observed to their geometric elements such as cylinders, spheres, cones and other geometric forms. As a result, his painted observations of nature resulted in an exploration of binocular vision, which results in two slightly different simultaneous visual perceptions. Such visual representation coupled with Cézanne's desire to capture the truth of his own perception compelled him to render the outlines of forms so as to display the distinctly different views of both the left and right eyes. Thus Cezanne's work augments and transforms the earlier ideas of perspective, in particular single-point perspective.
Cezanne's paintings were shown in the first exhibition of the Salon des Refusés in 1863, which displayed works not accepted by the jury of the official Paris Salon. The Salon rejected Cézanne's paintings every year from 1864, and Cézanne continued to submit his works to the Salon until 1882, when, through the intervention of fellow artist Antoine Guillemet, Cézanne exhibited Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cézanne, Father of the Artist (l'Evénement). It was his first and last successful submission to the Salon.
Cezanne exhibited his works twice with the Impressionists -- at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877. Despite his increasing popularity and financial success, Cézanne chose to work in isolation. He concentrated on a few themes and was proficient in genres like still lives, portraits, landscapes and studies of bathers.
Image: Léda au cygne (1880-82), Paul Cezanne’s version of ‘Leda and the swan’, dimensions 59.8 cm x 75 cm, located at The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania
One day Paul Cezanne was caught in a storm while working in the field. After working for two hours under a downpour he decided to go home but on the way he collapsed. He was taken home by a passing driver. The next day too he insisted on working, but later on he fainted. The model with whom he was working called for help and he was put to bed, and he died of pneumonia a few days later, on 22 October 1906. Paul Cezanne was buried at the old cemetery in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence.