Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Paul Cézanne - part 1

Note: This is intended to be a comprehensive series of posts on the works of Paul Cézanne, along the line of the recent Claude Monet series. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to access images due to the copyrighting of images (ie. photographs of works) by institutions and family estates, rather than of the works themselves (which are out of copyright). On this basis it is not possible for me to feature artists like Picasso or Matisse at all, which is a shame.

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, for instance, own a great number of Cézanne’s key works, yet require permissions and fees for use of their images, even on a non-profit basis like this blog, and therefore I won’t be featuring those works.


Paul Cézanne c1861
Paul Cézanne was born in 1839 in Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, His father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne was the co-founder of a banking firm that prospered throughout the artist’s life, affording him financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries and eventually resulting in a large inheritance.

In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon (now Collège Mignet), where he met and became friends with Émile Zola, who was in a less advanced class, as well as Baptistin Baille – three friends who would come to be known as “les trois inseparables”. He stayed there for six years, though in the last two years he was a day scholar. In 1857 he began attending the Free Municipal School of Drawing in Aix, wher he studied drawing under Joseph Gibert, a Spanish monk. From 1858 to 1861, complying with his father’s wishes, Cézanne attended the law school of the University of Aix, while receiving drawing lessons.

Paul Cézanne 1864 Portrait of Émile Zola oil on canvas 26 x 21 cm
Going against the objections of his banker father, he committed himself to pursuing his artistic development and left Aix for Paris in 1861. He was strongly encouraged to make this decision by Zola, who was already living in the capital at the time. Eventually, his father reconciled with Cézanne and supported his choice of career, Cézanne later received an inheritance of 400,000 francs (£218, 363) from his father, which rid him of all financial worries.

In Paris, Cézanne met the Impressionist Camille Pissarro. Initially the friendship formed in the mid-1860s between Pissarro and Cézanne was that of master and disciple, in which Pissarro exerted a formative influence on the younger artist. Over the course of the following decade their landscape painting excursions together, in Louveciennes and Pontoise, led to a collaborative working relationship between equals.

Cézanne’s early work is often concerned with the figure in the landscape and portraiture, but later in his career he became more interested in working from direct observation and gradually developed a light, airy painting style. Nevertheless, in Cézanne’s mature work there is the development of a solidified, almost architectural style of painting. 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. To this end, he structurally ordered whatever he perceived into simple forms and colour planes. His statement “I want to make of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums”, and his contention that he was recreating Poussin “after nature” underscored his desire to unite observation of nature with the permanence of classical composition.

Cézanne was interested in the simplification of naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials: he wanted to “treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone”. Additionally, Cézanne’s desire to capture the truth of perception led him to explore binocular vision graphically, rendering slightly different, yet simultaneous visual perceptions of the same phenomena to provide the viewer with an aesthetic experience of depth different from those earlier ideals of perspective in a particular single-point perspective. Cézanne’s innovations have propted critics to suggest such varied explanations as sick retinas, pure vision, and the influence of the steam railway.

Cézanne’s paintings were shown in 1863 in the first exhibition of the Salon des Refusés, which displayed works not accepted by the jury of the official Paris Salon. The Salon rejected Cézanne’s submissions every year from 1864 to 1869. He continued to submit works to the Salon until 1882. In that year, through the intervention of fellow artist Antoine Guillemet, he exhibited Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cézanne, Father of the Artist, reading ‘l’Evénement’, 1866, his first and last successful submission to the Salon.

Paul Cézanne 1866 The Artist's Father, reading "L'Événement" oil on canvas 198.5 x 119.3 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Before 1895 Cézanne exhibited twice with the Impressionists (at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877). In later years a few individual paintings were shown at various venues, until 1895, when the Parisian dealer, Ambroise Vollard, gave the artist his first solo exhibition. Despite the increasing public recognition and financial success, Cézanne chose to work in increasing artistic isolation, usually painting in the south of France, in his beloved Provence, far from Paris.

He concentrated on a few subjects and was equally proficient in each of these genres: still lifes, portaits, landscapes and studies of bathers. For the last, Cézanne was compelled to design from his imagination, due to a lack of available nude models. Like the landscapes, his portraits were drawn from that which was familiar, so that not only his wife and son, but local peasants, children, and his art dealer served as subjects. His still lifes are at once decorative in design, painted with thick, flat surfaces, yet with a weight reminiscent of Gustave Courbet. The ‘props’ for his works are still to be found as he left them, in his studio in the suburbs of modern Aix-en-Provence.

Cezanne's House in Aix-en-Provence photo © Poul Webb
Although religious images appeared less frequently in Cézanne’s later work, he remained a devout Roman Catholic and said, “When I judge art, I take my paintings and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art”.

Cézanne’s paintings were not well received among the petty Bourgeoisie of Aix. In 1903 Henri Rochefort visited the auction of paintings that had been in Zola’s possession and published on 9 March 1903 in L’Intransigeant, a highly critical article entitled “Love for the Ugly”. Rochefort describes how spectators had supposedly experienced laughing fits, when seeing the paintings of “an ultra-Impressionist named Cézanne”. Erroneously believing that Cézanne’s paintings in fact represented “the art dear to Zola” (Rochefort’s Dreyusard arch-enemy), he drew connections between “Dreyfusard snobs,” so-called after the French officer who was accused but innocent of having sold defence plans to Germany, and Zola’s supposedly cherished artist, Cézanne, The public in Aix was outraged, and for many days, copies of L’Intransigeant appeared on Cézann’es door-mat with messages asking him to leave the town “he was dishonouring”.


One day, Cézanne was caught in a storm while working in the field. Only after working for two hours under a downpour did he decide to go home; but on the way he collapsed - he was taken home by a passing driver. His old housekeeper rubbed his arms and legs to restore the circulation; as a result he regained consciousness. On the following day he intended to continue working, but later on he fainted; the model with whom he was working called for help; he was put to bed, and never left it. He died of pneumonia a few days later, on 22 October 1906. Cézanne was buried at the Saint-Pierre Cemetery in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence. Biographical notes adapted from Wikipedia.

This is part 1 of a 14-part post on the works of Paul Cézanne:

Paul Cézanne 1859-60 The Kiss of the Muse (after Frillié) oil on canvas 82.5 x 66 cm Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, France

Paul Cézanne 1860-61 The Four Seasons, Spring oil on canvas 314 x 97 cm Petit Palais, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1860-61 The Four Seasons, Summer oil on canvas 314 x 109 cm Petit Palais, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1860-61 The Four Seasons, Autumn oil on canvas 314 x 104 cm Petit Palais, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1860-61 The Four Seasons, Winter oil on canvas 314 x 104 cm Petit Palais, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1860c Landscape with Mill oil on canvas 22.9 x 31.5 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne early 1860s Bather at a Rock oil on canvas transferred from plaster The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk VA

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 Entrance to a Provençal Farm oil on canvas 24 x 33 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 Fisherman on the Rocks oil on canvas (transferred from mural) Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 Judgement of Paris oil on canvas 15 x 21 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 Portrait of a Man oil on canvas 46.5 x 38.1 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 Portrait of a Man oil on canvas Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 The Vault oil on canvas 45.7 x 42.9 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862-64 Woman with Parrot oil on board 28 x 20 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1862c Landscape of the Aix Countryside and the Caesar Tower oil on paper mounted on canvas 19.2 x 30.5 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1864-65 Still Life: Skull and Water Jug oil on canvas 59.5 x 48 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1864-68 The Orgy oil on canvas 130 x 81 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1864c Seascape graphite,watercolour and gouache on brown paper Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865 Lot and His Daughters oil on canvas 23.6 x 28.7 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865 Still Life with Bread and Eggs oil on canvas 59 x 76 cm Cincinnati Art Museum OH

Paul Cézanne 1865-66 Sugar Bowl, Pears and Blue Cup oil on canvas 30 x 41 cm Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, France

Paul Cézanne 1865-66 The Lion and the Basin at Jas de Bouffan oil on canvas Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Bought in 1859 by Cézanne’s father, the Jas de Bouffan country house remained in the family until 1899. There, for 40 years, Cézanne found his main sources of inspiration. He painted his first large early works directly onto the walls of a large room on the ground floor, then planted his easel in the yard in front of the house, at the farm, by the pond, along the alley of chestnut trees, creating a total of 36 oils and 17 watercolours that represented his family life.

Paul Cézanne 1865-67 House in Provence watercolour 21 x 34 cm

Paul Cézanne 1865-67c Antoine Dominique Sauveur Aubert, the Artist's Uncle oil on canvas 79.7 x 64.1 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Paul Cézanne 1865-67c Near Aix-en-Provence graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper 23 x 35.4 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865-68 Landscape oil on paper mounted on board 20 x 21 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865-68c Rocks in the Forest, Fontainebleau oil on canvas 41.1 x 33 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865c A Bend in the River oil on canvas The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Paul Cézanne 1865c Landscape near Aix-en-Provence oil on canvas Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865c Landscape of the Midi oil on canvas 24.5 x 38.3 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865c Landscape: Mont Sainte-Victoire oil on canvas 22.5 x 28.2 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1865c Still Life: Bread and Leg of Lamb oil on canvas 27 x 35.5 cm Kunsthaus, Zurich

Paul Cézanne 1865c The Painter's Father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne oil on house paint on plaster mounted on canvas scrim 167.6 x 114.3 cm The National Gallery, London

Paul Cézanne 1865c The Stove in the Studio oil on canvas 41 x 30 cm The National Gallery, London

Paul Cézanne 1866 Anthony Valabregue oil on canvas 116.3 x 98.4 cm  National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Paul Cézanne 1866 Head of an Old Man oil on canvas 51 x 48 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1866 Landscape oil on canvas 27.8 x 34.9 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866 Marion and Valabregue Setting out for Motif oil on canvas Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866 Portrait of a Young Man oil on canvas Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866 Portrait of Uncle Dominique oil on canvas 41 x 33 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866 Uncle Dominique (The Lawyer) oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Paul Cézanne 1866 Uncle Dominique in a Turban oil on canvas 44 x 37 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866 Uncle Dominique in Profile oil on canvas 39 x 30.5 cm Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge UK

Paul Cézanne 1866 Uncle Dominique oil on canvas Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866 Uncle Dominque oil on canvas 46.1 x 38.2 cm Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena CA

Paul Cézanne 1866 View of Bonnieres oil on canvas Musée Faure, Aix-les-Bains, France

Paul Cézanne 1866-67 Antoine-Fortuné Mation oil on canvas 40.6 x 32.5 cm Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland

Paul Cézanne 1866-67 The Artist's Mother oil on canvas St. Louis Art Museum MO

Paul Cézanne 1866-67c Portrait of Marie Cézanne, the Artist's Sister oil on canvas 50.2 x 39.4 cm Private Collection

Paul Cézanne 1866-71c Landscape with Watermill oil on canvas 41.4 x 54.3 cm Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT

Paul Cézanne 1866c Antoine Dominique Sauveur Aubert, the Artist's Uncle, as a Monk oil on canvas 65.1 x 54.6 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York





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