Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. The French painter Paul Cézanne, who exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued his interests increasingly in artistic isolation, is regarded today as one of the great forerunners of modern painting, both for the way that he evolved of putting down on canvas exactly what his eye saw in nature and for the qualities of pictorial form that he achieved through a unique treatment of space, mass, and color. Cézanne was a contemporary of the Impressionists, but he went beyond their interests in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects, to create, in his words, "something more solid and durable, like the art of the museums.''
Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, on January 19, 1839.
His father, Philippe Auguste, was the cofounder of a successful banking
firm, which afforded Cézanne financial security that was unavailable to
most of his fellow artists. In 1852 Paul Cézanne entered the Collège
Bourbon, where he met and became friends with Émile Zola. This
friendship was important for both men and with youthful spirit they
dreamed of successful careers in the Paris art world, Cézanne as a
painter and Zola as a writer. Consequently, Cézanne began to study
painting and drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix in 1856. His
father was against the pursuit of an artistic career, and in 1858 he
persuaded Cézanne to enter law school at the University of Aix. Although
Paul Cézanne continued his law studies for several years, at the same
time he was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix, where he
remained until 1861. In 1861 Paul Cézanne finally convinced his father
to allow him to go to Paris, France.
Paris Paul Cézanne frequented the Louvre, where he met fellow artists
Camille Pissarro and, later on,
Claude Monet, Sisley, Bazille and
Pierre Renoir. In September of the
same year Paul Cézanne was refused admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts
and went back to Aix, to the great relief of his father, who offered him
a position in his bank. But in November 1862 Paul Cézanne went back to
Paris and took up painting again. Cezanne became acquainted with the
revolutionary work of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet. Paul Cézanne
also admired the fiery romanticism of Eugène Delacroix's paintings. But
he was never entirely comfortable with Parisian life and periodically
returned to Aix, where he could work in relative isolation. He retreated
there, for instance, during the Franco-Prussian War.
Paul Cézanne's paintings from the 1860s are peculiar, bearing little
overt resemblance to the artist's mature and more important style. The
subject matter is brooding and melancholy and includes fantasies,
dreams, religious images, and a general preoccupation with the macabre.
His technique in these early paintings is similarly romantic, often
impassioned. In the "Man in a Blue Cap" pigments have been applied with
a palette knife and the surface is everywhere dense with impasto. The
same qualities characterize the weird "Washing of a Corpse" (1867-1869),
which seems to picture the events in a morgue and to be a pietà as well.