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Paul Cezanne was born on January 19, 1839 in
Aix-en-Provence in France. His first colors were given to him by
his father, who later despaired of his becoming a banker instead of a
painter. Paul had a peculiar personality as a child,
impressionable and stormy. He had his first lessons in drawing
from a Spanish monk at boarding school. At thirteen he went to
Lycee at Aix where he met Emile Zola; the two became intimate
friends, and inseparable. This boyhood friendship was perhaps the
happiest time of Cezanne's life. The boys went swimming together
and did all the activities that boys do as they grow up.
addition, Cezanne, inspired by Zola, wrote some poetry. No prodigy,
slow but conscientious, he was fascinated by chemistry and the
classics. He even played the cornet in his school band. He
was encouraged by his mother, from whom he got his sensitivity, but his
father was outraged that a banker's son would choose such work.
Paul was timid and afraid of him; he gave in and registered with the
Law Faculty at Aix in 1858-59. He was torn between staying in Aix
with his father and art teacher, M. Gilbert, who didn't want to lose
him, and going to Paris with Zola and his yearnings for art.
1867 his father gave his consent and took him to Paris and left
him. He studied at the Academie Suisse in the daytime and spent
more of his time with Zola but became easily discouraged and went back
to Aix. He adopted painting as his profession with an annual
allowance of 2600 francs from his father. He was never able to
support himself; he sold hardly anything at all. His father
took him back into the bank but still he painted. He painted
compositions on the walls of the Jas de Bouffan, but signed four of the
panels 'Ingres' for a joke. His father allowed him to return to
Paris finally thereby recognizing the young man's great gift.
impatiently tried to get in the Ecole des Beaux Arts but was rejected
because his painting was too extreme. He was an incurable
romantic and was incapable of holding on to his money. He was
influenced a lot by Rubens and impressed by the Louvre. In 1863 he
became acquainted with Renoir and Manet.
Cezanne became known as
one of the most extreme of the young revolutionary painters, the
bitterest in his denunciation of official art and of Ingres, who, then
in his old age, was regarded as the head of the reactionaries. In
this way, Cezanne became acquainted with the group of painters who
encircled Manet and who afterward became known as the
Impressionists. Manet was the masterful dominating personality of
the group at Cafe Guerbois. But at this period, Cezanne was most
influenced by Delacroix and by the Baroque painters whom Delacroix
studied, i.e., Rubens and Tinteretto.
In 1866 he tried
unsuccessfully to enter the Salon de Bouguereau. Officialdom from the
first was hostile to Cezanne who became a cynic and would not join the
famous gatherings of other painters at Cafe Guerbois. He alternated
between painting at Aix and at Paris. In 1872 he went to Auvers
where he felt freer, and where Pissarro was also painting. In
1874 Cezanne exhibited with the Society of Painters, Sculptors and
Gravers which had some success at Salon des Refuses. In 1877 he
exhibited again for the last time with the same group of other
painters, known then as the impressionists. His paintings aroused
universal condemnation. M. Choquet, a collector, was one of his
few friends and patrons.
Cezanne's lifelong ambition was to hang
in the Salon des Artistes Francais. Every year he sent two
canvases but was consistently rejected. In 1882 a portrait was
accepted but that was because his friend Guillanet sneaked it in for
him. He was accepted in 1889 in the Universal Exposition through
the influence and insistence of M. Choquet.
His paintings became
richer, more intense and vivid in color, more agitated in rhythm, more
vehement in accent. They also departed more and more from careful
analysis of natural appearance, as though his apprenticeship to nature
had ceased and he felt free to follow unhesitatingly his instinctive
feeling. He led a secluded life in Aix toward the end of his
life. In 1880's and 1890's his name had became almost unknown in
larger art circles in Paris, although he never lacked a few
enthusiastic admirers. Gradually his fame began to circulate among the
more intelligent artists and in 1904 a retrospective exhibition of his
works in the Autumn Salon revealed to the public the existence of this
almost unknown genius.
There was much bickering and prejudice
between the Salon and Cezanne. Since he couldn't seem to arrange to get
his paintings hung, Vollard arranged a one-man show. After much
chasing Cezanne around France and trouble with arrangements the show
opened in December 1895. It created much excitement and was considered
an outrage to art. He received no respect from either the public
or other painters.
Cezanne would fly into a rage at anything
while painting and tear canvas up, poke holes into painting or the
first thing that came into his head. He could not endure either
Van Gogh's or Gauguin's painting; he thought Puvis de Chavannes a poor
imitation of nature. He disliked Whistler and Fantin Latour also, but
all these had the same opinion of him. He was certainly not
facile; he worked on a painting until the result he wanted was
achieved. He wanted all his life to be decorated by the Beaux
Arts but never reached that goal. In 1904 the Sale d'Autumne
devoted an entire room to Cezanne. He became more desirable in
the eyes of collectors but there was still much hostility toward him.
was at the peak of his power in 1892-1903, when he painted his
best. He was always ill at ease with sophisticated Paris.
Every painting was a tremendous problem for him; he never felt as
though he had entirely conquered it. He felt that painting from
nature did not mean copying the object but realizing one's sensations;
yet he never worked with a model.
Cezanne lived from 1884
through 1887 at Aix. He was almost forgotten except by his
painter friends. His father had died in 1885 and his mother eight
years later. He had married Hortense Fequet in April 1886.
He had broken relations with Zola after Zola became successful.
Cezanne suffered from diabetes, which robbed him of his strength, but
he would paint just as hard. He got caught in a storm, became ill
and died on October 22, 1906.
Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
ARTnews, May 1990
"Cezanne: Studies in Contrast" by Linda Hochlin, Art in America, June 1996
"Cezanne" by Winthrop Sargeant, Look Magazine, date unknown
"Cezanne's Gentle Apocalypse" by Jed Perl, Art & Antiques, May 1995
Peter Plagens in Newsweek, February 27, 1989
From the Internet, Webmuseum, Paris
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