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Paul Cézanne
Nationality: 
french
Gender: 
Male
Birth Date: 
1839
Birth Place: 
Aix-en-Provence
Death Date: 
1906
Death Place: 
Aix-en-Provence
Paul Cézanne’s paintings and watercolors revolutionized French art in the late 19th century. Rejected by the academic art establishment, savaged by many critics, collected by several leading Impressionist artists and admired by the Post-Impressionists, his art led to the Fauvists, Cubists and 20th century abstract art. Born on January 19, 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne’s father groomed him for a career at the family bank. Cézanne began studying art at a drawing school in Aix in 1857, but also entered law school in late 1858. He quit legal studies in April 1861 and moved to Paris to pursue artistic studies at the Académie Suisse, where he met Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). After being rejected for admission to the École des Beaux-Arts, he returned to Aix to work in his father’s bank and continue studies at the municipal drawing school. He returned to Paris in 1862 and apparently again failed to gain admission to the École des Beaux-Arts. He became part of the group of avant-garde artists then forming in Paris and exhibited in the Salon des Refusés in 1863. Many of Cezanne's early paintings were worked in a dark and foreboding style, dominated by sexually charged images of death and violence, and received a hostile critical reaction. Cézanne’s submission to the Salon in 1864 was rejected, a pattern that would be repeated for the rest of his career (with one exception in 1882). In the middle of the decade Cézanne began pursuing watercolor, a medium that he would use for the rest of his life. In 1869 Hortense Fiquet (1850-1922) became his mistress, a relationship he concealed from his father; she was also a frequent model. Cézanne’s artistic style changed radically in the early 1870s under the influence of his friend Pissarro. Cézanne and Hortense joined Pissarro in small towns northwest of the Paris for two years, painting together outdoors in the Impressionist style. Thanks to Pissarro, Cézanne participated in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, but like many participants was criticized in many reviews of the show. Cézanne did not participate in the 1876 exhibition of the Impressionists, but showed sixteen works at the third exhibition in 1877. As before, Cézanne’s works were savaged by most critics. He did not participate in future Impressionist exhibitions. Financial difficulties plagued Cézanne during the 1870s. By the mid-1880s Cézanne’s style evolved away from the Impressionist style as he sought greater mass and structure in his works, using precise, parallel brushstrokes. His watercolors evolved as well, becoming more transparent and often with much of the sheet left without color. His themes were landscapes, still lifes, portraits and nude bathers. His fellow artists, including Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) and Pissarro began acquiring Cézanne’s works during this decade. Cézanne married Hortense in a religious ceremony in 1886 attended by his parents. He received a substantial inheritance after the death of his father that year, relieving him of financial concerns and the need to rely on sales of his paintings. For the rest of his life he worked in relative seclusion in or near Aix. Cézanne’s work began to receive wider exposure and critical praise during the 1890s. Ambrose Vollard (1866-1939) mounted an exhibition of about fifty of Cézanne’s paintings, watercolors and drawings in 1895, partially at the instigation of Cézanne’s son. The show caused a sensation in Parisian art world. The next year Vollard traveled to Aix and convinced Cézanne to agree to a second exhibition, which occurred in 1898 with about sixty pictures. At Vollard’s request Cézanne designed three lithographs in the late 1890s, which Vollard published in print albums in 1897 and 1898. Vollard mounted a third exhibition of about forty Cézanne’s works in 1899. Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) also began acquiring and selling Cézanne’s works in the 1890s. Works by Cézanne entered two national museum collections during this decade, the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris and the National Gallery in Berlin. Cézanne’s works appeared in exhibitions in Berlin (1900), Paris (1901), Vienna (1903) and London (1905). A room was hung with thirty-one Cézanne paintings at the Salon d’Automne of 1904 in Paris. Cézanne continued to work despite poor health, spending much time outdoors painting landscapes. While painting outdoors on October 15, 1906, he collapsed and remained unconscious in the rain for several hours before he was found. His health deteriorated and he died October 23, 1906 at his home outside Aix. Fifty-six of his works were exhibited in his honor at the 1907 Salon d’Automne. (TNB 4/2011) Selected bibliography: Rewald, John. Cézanne: A Biography. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1986. Rishel, Joseph J. and Katherine Sachs. Cézanne and Beyond. Exhibition catalog. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.