Still life with
Pomegranate and pears 1890-93
"Still life with pomegranate and pears" - 1890-93 - Phillips Collection, Washington DC

Friend and former pupil of Impressionnist painter Pissarro, Cezanne will turn on his own to geometrical forms prefiguring the 20th century abstract art




Aix's Master

Paul Cézanne originates from a wealthy provincial middle-class family. His father owned a prosperous hat business in Aix-en-Provence, but however lived somewhat on the frindge of Aix society : he was not married with the mother of his son, one of his former workers, when Paul was born in 1839, and legalized his situation only five years later, just before setting up himself as a banker.

Cézanne made all his studies in Aix, acquiring a solid traditional culture and made friends with some of his classmates, especially Emile Zola , then his most intimate confidant.


Portrait of Paul Cézanne

Pastel on paper


DUKAS -The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897)


As his father intended that he studied law, he registered at the faculty of Aix in 1858. His artistic vocation however was advanced enough (he had followed the courses of the free school of drawing since 1857) that he thought of going to study painting in Paris.

He ends up obtaining from his father, who supports him, the necessary authorization and makes a first Parisian stay in spring and summer of 1861, enrolling at the Academy Charles Suisse where he meets Pissarro and Guillaumin , but fails to the entrance examination to the School of Fine Arts.

He returns to Aix to work in his father's bank, but leaves again one year later for Paris where he re-registered at the Academy Charles Suisse. From then on he gave up with his false starts, hesitations, if not discouragement in front of the difficulties, to become a painter : Cézanne, definitively, had decided to be a painter .



The following years, where he alternates Parisian stays and returns in Aix and trips in Provence, see him following the route of an independent hard working student, respectful of traditional learning. He makes sketches of models at the Swiss Academy, often goes to the Louvre Museum where he fills many notebooks with draws from the Old Masters and copies several paintings.

He continues to see Zola regularly, this latter supporting him in his efforts, intellectually, morally and even financially, and also gets acquainted with Bazille , Renoir , Monet , Sisley. In 1866 he will also meet Manet through Zola who had become Manet's friend .

The abduction

Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge, England


Early works of Cézanne do not have a great deal to see with those of his Impressionist friends, with whom he only shares ambition, desire of innovation, and revolt against the academic standards.

He is initially attracted by Delacroix's romanticism, and let the violent obsessions which inhabit him appear in his subjects and his settings. The dramatic violence of his subjects is expressed by dark colors, as in "The abduction " - 1867 .

He also paints many landscapes and portraits in a realistic style inspired of Courbet .

Cézanne being a self-educated painter (he will not enter the School of Fine Arts, and the Swiss Academy did not give courses), his painting is then less homogeneous than that of his Impressionist fellows, sometimes even awkward.

Cézanne, from 1863, regularly proposes paintings to the jury of the Official Salon : they will always be refused (with an exception, a portrait, in 1882), in spite of his efforts and the supports of which it could lay out.

His work already shows a great diversity of genres : portraits, historical or religious scenes, still life paintings, landscapes of Provence...


Thanks to the paternal pension, the young painter does not have the same money problems as some of his friends (Monet, Renoir, Guillaumin).

In 1869, Cézanne meets Hortense Fiquet, a model who will become his companion, but fearing that his father, a particularly narrow-minded and severe man, would disapprove this relationship and cease his pension, Cézanne hides it to his father, just as the later birth of his son, Paul, in 1872, whose existence will be fortuitously discovered by his father only in 1878.

This wobbly situation will last in fact until their marriage in 1886, in the presence of his parents.


Hortense Fiquet in a striped skirt

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The couple passes the war of 1870-1871 in Provence, then returns to settle in Paris.



In 1872 Cézanne, on the demand of Pissarro, settles with his family in Pontoise, then later in Auvers-on-Oise (he lives there in a house provided by Doctor Gachet ), where both work jointly.

Until then Cézanne had only painted in studio, and he will follow the example of Pissarro and will devote especially to painting landscape in open-air. Their collaboration will be very intense and profitable for the two of them, Cézanne getting impregnated of the Impressionist manner and supporting Pissarro in his attempt to execute more constructed spatial compositions.

In the following years, Cézanne will maintain a permanent dialogue with Pissarro and Guillaumin, with whom he shares the preoccupation for an exact representation of nature.

Pissarro obtained the participation of Cézanne to the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 : his works will be very badly received there, and Cézanne shall refuse to send paintings to the second exhibition in 1876.


Portrait of Victor Choquet

Collection de Lord Rotschild
Cambridge, England


He will bring himself to send paintings for the third exhibition of 1877, where they will be again badly received by the public which considers them rather heavy and of a coarse style. Art critics will violently attack the works of Cézanne.

Art critic Theodore Duret (1838-1927) wrote on this subject: "the contribution of innovating painters in the XIXth century never occurred without raising a more or less violent opposition. If the Impressionists were so maltreated at their show of 1877, it is because they had reached their full development and showed works of a really different nature from what one had already seen. Cézanne was among all of them he who excited and was to excite a long time the most horror. One can say, to characterize the opinion that one could form about Cezanne's works, that he made the effect of a monster, of an ogre. It had taken him a long time to develop his own style. At the first exhibition of 1874, he sent "The House of the hung man in Auvers", an already powerful work, that he was to outdo and that he indeed outdid in intensity of colour and originality of style with "The portrait of Mr. Choquet" and other landscapes exposed there".

Cézanne, disgusted and hurt, will cease any participation in the Impressionist exhibitions. He will take his distances with his friends.



After the third Exhibition of 1877, Cezanne will continue to work in Paris and in its surroundings, while returning regularly in the South.

Toward the end of the 1870s, Cézanne will find, later than his colleagues, an accomplished form of painting, his personal style.


If Cézanne approaches one of the fundamental principles of Impressionism, which consists in being devoted completely on real vision, he does not want to fix only the "impression" that results from it, but indeed "something as solid and durable as the art of the museums ".

"The bridge of Maincy" - 1882-85 counts among the first masterpieces of this personal style. The treatment of trees colors, a major green applied slightly, without clear separation between its small particles of close colors, takes part in the overall vision, whereas the pictorial organization of the painting remains well marked .

Cézanne paints his landscapes in Ile-de-France area, and in his native Provence where he wanders through the hills around the Sainte-Victoire Mountain.

Besides portrait and still life paintings, Cézanne will also get interest in painting nudes in nature, which he will call "bathers".

The bridge of Maincy
c. 1882-85

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

His painting accepted at the Salon of 1882 constitutes an exception which will not be renewed, and, refused once again in 1884, Cézanne "gives up the fight for Paris " .

Quite isolated from artistic currents, Cézanne now works more and more often and for long periods of time in Provence, at Aix.

He keeps in contact with Pissarro whom he sometimes visits, and Renoir who visits him in 1882, and again in 1883 accompanied by Monet.

The middle of the 1880s will mark a turn in his personal life. He breaks with Zola in 1886, at the time of the publication of " The Work ", where he would recognize himself in the character of the fallen painter Claude Lantier. The same year, the death of his father puts him in possession of a fortune sufficient to ensure him definitive independence.

His paintings will be very seldom shown to the public : in 1889 with the World Fair, in 1887 and 1890, with the group of the XX, in Brussels.



In 1895, a retrospective of Cezanne's work organized by Ambroise Vollard , then a young 27 years art dealer, where 150 of his paintings are exhibited, was going to mark a turn for Cézanne, hitherto rejected by the Official Salon and violently attacked at the Impressionist exhibitions.

Cézanne is then discovered : by his former friends, who were unaware of his evolution, but also by young artists for whom he is a point of anchoring, an immediate reference.


Gradually will born and grow a recognition, at the origin especially the fact of young painters, such as Emile Bernard or Maurice Denis, who see in him a Master as much as a precursor, then also of a few perspicacious art critics such as Gustave Geffroy, Thadée Natanson, Roger Marx, Rilke.

His reputation will not cease growing (Maurice Denis painted in 1900 "Homage to Cézanne" today at the Musée d'Orsay), with new exhibitions, at Vollard in 1898, at the Salon of independent then at the Fall Salon (1899, 1904, 1905, 1906). Many painters then come to see the Master in Aix.

However it is only one century after the first great retrospective devoted to him by his dealer Ambroise Vollard, in 1895, who revealed him to his contemporaries, that Cézanne was truly devoted in his country : - remember the Cézanne's exhibition which was held in Paris at the Grand Palais and in London in 1995.

The role of art amateurs in this recognition was quite as essential, during his lifetime and after his death : Victor Choquet, the small civil employee collector of the Impressionists, in a way, contributed to give his final stature to a painter of whom he owned exceptional sets.


Boy in a red vest

E.G. Bührle Collection, Zurich


CEZANNE Father of Modern painting

Cézanne who was disparaged at his beginnings, and still late in his life, appears today to be a capital figure in art history.

His participation in the Impressionist movement, altogether relatively minor, counts less than the place which he occupies between XIXth and the XXth century, between on one hand Delacroix's romanticism and Courbet's realism, which so strongly marked him at his beginnings, and on the other hand contemporary movements such as cubism which, to different degree, claimed all more or less him.

Card players

Courtauld Institute, Londres


It is not sure that the noise made now around his work would have really delighted Cézanne in his last years, who feared over all to be recovered, that one puts "the hook above to him".

Painting was for him work of a workman, a solitary work, except for rare moments, almost painful, practised without interruption. In the same way as drawing, which one too often forgets that it was an essential element of his creative process.


Cézanne placed very high the aims of art, wanting to produce paintings "which are a teaching". Also his paintings are increasingly considered as it ages, matured in the introspection of an artist who, however, gave himself Nature as first master : "One is neither too scrupulous and sincere, nor too subjected to nature; but one is more or less master of his model, and especially of his means of expression ", he wrote in 1904.

This tension between objective reality and its esthetic transposition is at the heart of his process.

This explained why Cézanne could be a model for the generations which followed him, while at the same time they used various and contradictory ways.


Sainte-Victoire Mountain

Philadelphia Museum of Art


Aix-en-Provence, 2006


The city of Aix-en-Provence is on the point of celebrating the centenary of Paul Cézanne's death with a year rich in demonstrations.

The exhibition "Cézanne in Provence" , of international significance, will inaugurate the reopening of the Granet museum, one of the richest province museums , where the Master inhabitant of Aix was not admitted to enter during his life : 120 major works (80 oils, 40 watercolours) painted by Cézanne in Provence or on the subject of the provence landscapes, lent by international museums and private collections, will be thus presented in 2006 in Washington and Aix in Provence .

Moreover, visitors after the visit of the exhibition will be able to discover the places of Cézanne's life and work in Aix countryside, the points of view on Sainte-Victoire, the careers of Bibemus, Jas de Bouffan, the Workshop of Lauves and all the other places always impressed of his presence

Compotier, glass and apples
(Still life with compotier)

Collection privée, Paris