Biography of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)

French painter, one of the best representatives of post-impressionism, born on January 19, 1839 and died on October 22, 1906.

Self portrait (oil on canvas, 1878-1880). Collection Phillips (Washington).

His father was an enterprising bourgeois who was able to give his family a good position in Aix-en-Provence, where the artist was born, studied and met the future novelist Zola, which would have a decisive importance in his artistic life. In 1861 Cezanne got permission to move to Paris to study painting and enrolled at the Académie Suisse, where immediately met Guillaumin and Pissarro, however, discouraged by the results of his painting, he/she returned to Aix and got to work in banking from his father. At the end of 1862, however, insisted the Paris adventure and Zola could introduce him in the environment of the Impressionists. Thereafter and until 1870 Cézanne alternated life in Paris, where he/she frequented the Louvre, with long stays in Provence. However, his artistic life unfolded under the sign of failure. In 1866 the official Salon jury rejected their admission, and the painter wrote a violent letter of protest to the director of fine arts. He/She did not obtain any results, and until 1882 Cezanne would be excluded systematically from the official exhibitions.

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War surprised him refuge in a villa near Marseille, but stimulated by Pissarro, relocated in 1872 to Pontoise. The proximity of his friend and work outdoors sessions brought deep transformations to his painting: the palette was clarified, air and light began to circulate on the Web, and the brushstrokes are fractionated in impressionistic touches. It was a period of intense creative activity which culminated with the participation of Cézanne in the first exhibition of the Impressionists in 1874, where he/she was admitted through the intercession of the own Pissarro. In fact, until 1879 Cezanne remained faithful to the Impressionist language, and in 1877 was even convinced to expose in the third sample, where he/she presented a group of sixteen works. Not this time was understood his work, even by very few critics in favorable to Impressionism, including his friend Zola.

From 1879 Cezanne was moving gradually away from impressionistic language and, although it maintained some contacts with artists, always refused to exhibit again with them. The death of his father in 1886, put him under cover of any economic concerns and their stays out of Provence were becoming increasingly rare (although sometimes not lacked to exhibit in Brussels in 1887, 1889 and 1890 with the "group of twenty"), until after 1890 locked herself in sullen isolation in Aix. From this moment his favorite partner was the mountain of Santa Victoria, his pictorial motif par excellence, to which he/she devoted more than sixty compositions. Soon the new generation recognized in it the old masters who, coming out of the impasse which had become Impressionism, and leaving the sensitivity their indispensable role, had managed to replace empiricism by reflection only.

Dahlias in porcelain vase. Cezanne. France.

Along with the problems of light, absolutizados by the Impressionists, Cézanne tried to solve two basic issues that were neglected by the latter: spatiality and objectivity. In fact, he/she painted almost the same reasons as the Impressionists, but with the idea of a synthesis that combines the expression of the light with the palpable formal body, limited by fixed spatial relations. His paintings offer exactly the opposite what the Impressionists are capable of doing: not the fleeting moment, the slippery and passenger of the phenomena, but the consistency and duration of the imperishable. Therefore distortions that appear in his work can be explained only by the requirements of pictorial design. If we consider that they are the result of a continuous adjustment between the truths of what is known, what is seen and what it feels like, we will be in a better position to appreciate the originality of an art so far, on the one hand, of the least sensual constructions of cubism, as on the other from naturalistic immediacy of the early years of impressionism. And if in addition we do not forget that the reason, as it is registered by his extraordinarily acute vision, will be always contrasted in his mind with their high ideal of art represented by the great masters of the European Baroque, we can understand the difficulty and severity of the task imposed Cezanne. As he/she said, it was Impressionism to museums.

As noted by Hamilton, in contrast to the photographic vision of the early impressionists, Cezanne fabrics are cumulative records of successive instantaneidades. Each painting is not an exhibition of the motive as an element that ideally remains outside of us and, therefore, beyond the temporary experience: is constituted based on singular and successive observations that you can still see outlines multiplied objects, instead of constant light, diffuse and comprehensive, by the Dim light air of the Impressionists and moving perspective of the landscapes and the still-lifes. These rectangular discrepancies, testing their overwhelming sense of form, forced Cezanne to deform the "natural" appearance of the details for the overall design, and are rather evidence of the time that the painter was painting and of the numerous positions just different in that each object was studied. Through this introduction of changes and processes across multiple points deposited on the surface, the picture becomes a record of the present continuous, of the experience of space in time, that is, at the same time, an experience that requires time to reveal himself.

In any case, the recognition of Cezanne was swift enough, and until the retrospective exhibitions of the Ambroise Vollard Gallery (Cézanne had known who at the great exhibition in Paris in 1895) in 1895 and 1898, the younger generations not decided to loot his work to find what it wanted to see. First the "decorative" aspect was admired by the symbolists and the nabis; After the commemorative exhibition at the Salon d'Automne in 1907, the Cubists began to claim the structural effects. It was later hailed as one of the pioneers of abstract, because the subordination of, at least apparent, art of the theme design. And so on. Each facet is certainly defensible, but all are partial. From 1920 Cezanne relationship with Impressionism had been practically forgotten and was completed the image of the painter as the primitive of the modern, as the teacher who cast the foundations of new abstract and constructivist of 20th-century art, although in reality was not that the real achievement of Cezanne and interpret his works well be sacrificing its meaning by a subsequent and different ideal.


Gallery multimedia

Links to the Internet 116 paintings by the artist.


I catalog exhibition, Paul Cezanne, Madrid, Spanish Museum of contemporary art, 1984.

REWALD, j., the Postimpressionism. From Van Gogh to Gauguin, madrid, 1982.

ROBERTS, k., The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist, Oxford, 1975.

VENTURI, l., Cezanne, are art, L'Oeuvre, Paris, 1936, 2 vols.

Sagrario Aznar Almazán