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Paul Cézanne

French Draftsman and Painter

Paul Cézanne Photo
Movement: Post-Impressionism

Born: January 19, 1839 - Aix-en-Provence, France

Died: October 22, 1906 - Aix-en-Provence, France

"I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you"

Paul Cézanne Signature

Summary of Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne was the preeminent French artist of the Post-Impressionist era, widely appreciated toward the end of his life for insisting that painting stay in touch with its material, virtually sculptural origins. Also known as the "Master of Aix" after his ancestral home in the South of France, Cézanne is credited with paving the way for the emergence of twentieth-century modernism, both visually and conceptually. In retrospect, his work constitutes the most powerful and essential link between the ephemeral aspects of Impressionism and the more materialist, artistic movements of Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, and even complete abstraction.

Key Ideas

Unsatisfied with the Impressionist dictum that painting is primarily a reflection of visual perception, Cézanne sought to make of his artistic practice a new kind of analytical discipline. In his hands, the canvas itself takes on the role of a screen where an artist's visual sensations are registered as he gazes intensely, and often repeatedly, at a given subject.
Cézanne applied his pigments to the canvas in a series of discrete, methodical brushstrokes as though he were "constructing" a picture rather than "painting" it. Thus, his work remains true to an underlying architectural ideal: every portion of the canvas should contribute to its overall structural integrity.
In Cézanne's mature pictures, even a simple apple might display a distinctly sculptural dimension. It is as if each item of still life, landscape, or portrait had been examined not from one but several angles, its material properties then recombined by the artist as no mere copy, but as what Cézanne called "a harmony parallel to nature." It was this aspect of Cézanne's analytical, time-based practice that led the future Cubists to regard him as their true mentor.
Detail of <i>Four Apples</i> (c. 1881) by Paul Cézanne

Though Paul Cézanne famously said, "I will astonish Paris with an apple," he turned away from Paris (but not from fruits) for a quiet life in Provence where he painted, as he said, "nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone." His artistic approach launched one of the four major trends in movement now defined as Post-Impressionism. And his move to the countryside became a model for other Post-Impressionist leaders including Signac, Gauguin, and van Gogh, who also worked and lived in the South of France.

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