Paul Cezanne: A Window Into Art History

From classic masterpieces imbued with dark mysterious tones to vibrant soulful artworks, for years we have tried our best to categorize and contain art into absolutes. Then once in eons, some zealous artists come to flaunt their talent and we find ourselves short of ‘categories’ to summarize their work into.

One such enigma is Paul Cezanne, the man credited with laying down the foundation of the transition between 20th-century Impressionism and Cubism. The French artistic genius showed light to numerous avant-garde painters such as the likes of Pablo Picasso, who revered him as a father figure.

Despite initial roadblocks and personal crises, Cezanne not only created but also propagated to a great extent, an entirely unique art style. His work was indispensable to the dawn of the modern art movement. In this article, we’ll take a stroll through the life of this ingenious art master, his style, and his influence.

Early Life

Unlike the cliche rags-to-riches stories of many artists, Paul Cezanne’s isn’t marked by adversities. He was brought up in a rather privileged family in Aix-en-Provence, a city-commune in Southern France (which became a pilgrimage of many Cezanne admirers later on). Young Paul hadn’t always been interested in art; his creativity was tapped by his mother who was a strong influence that drove him to an art career.

Early Life

He shared 6 important budding years of his life with two beloved friends- Emile Zola and  Baptistin Baille, both quite renowned in their fields. They are said to have greatly influenced his inclinations towards art as a career.

Overwhelmed by his father’s wishes, the artist also tried his luck with the law. Quite interestingly, he attended the Municipal School of Drawing in Aix while also pursuing law at the University of Aix from 1858-61. However, the artist finally found his true calling and stuck to the profession that later earned him timeless recognition.

Career

Cezanne’s art career is divided into periods due to the versatility and transition visible in his style throughout his life. Starting with the ‘dark period’ from the early 1860s, his work during that time was influenced by conspicuous negative emotional energy. This probably was the result of several rejections he faced at notable impressionist art exhibitions, owing to his revolutionary different style. Later works from this period revolve around strong subjects like The Murder, The Rape, and Women Dressing.

Career

During the 1870s, under the influence of Danish-french painter Camille Pissarro, Cezanne’s works outgrew the dark period. By this time, he was getting good commissions from his work but public response wasn’t appreciative. His work started gaining much-deserved recognition during the 1880s, also known as his ‘mature period’.

Cezanne proudly witnessed the success of his first independent art exhibit in 1885. From there the artist saw a slight decline due to health concerns and senility until the 1900s. Personal crises arising from the loss of his mother and severed relations with his wife impacted a lot of his work during this time.

Art Style

During the dark period, Cezanne’s art style was characterized by expressive strokes and extensive use of dark themes. One can notice dramatic contrasts and thick pigment layers on the canvas carefully applied with a palette knife by the artist. In later years, under the guidance of Pissarro, his style grew from imaginatively painted figures in the landscape to a more mature architectural art style.

Art Style

While impressionists were obsessed with light and color, Cezanne laid more emphasis on form. However, he did share one common antic with the impressionist painters of his time, i.e. the hobby of painting outdoors. By the 1880s, he had developed a unique analytical approach to nature which later inspired successive generations of modern Cubists.

Influenced

Cezanne’s influence on 20th-century art was such that near the end of his life and till years after, young artists would make pilgrimages to his home. Cubism master Pablo Picasso and artist Henri Matisse quite openly admitted the debt of this painter by referring to him as, “… the father of us all”.

Influenced

His artworks became a source of inspiration to modern artists and opened doors to new techniques and perspectives. The New York Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted entire rooms to his artworks for years.

Highly Acclaimed Artworks

As his legacy, Cezanne left brilliance simplified on the canvas in many of his artworks. Some highly appreciated paintings include A Bend In The Road, The Card Players series, The Murder, and many more. Erotic imagery in Plein-air paintings like The Bathers can be seen in the artworks from early career but the subjects were purely imaginative.

Highly Acclaimed Artworks

Another famous piece The Fisherman from 1875 is characterized by bright tones and themes of fantasy. Cezanne also worked on several still life paintings that follow his unique play of color and form.

Conclusion

Art is immortal, but artists only bless the mortal world for numbered days, leaving behind a rich legacy. While you can not chit-chat with Cezanne on his revolutionary views on art, you can still get a piece of him in his works. Now original paintings of timeless masters cost a fortune. But brilliant reproductions of these oil paintings by Paul Cezanne or other artworks are great deals.