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Born Jan. 19, 1839, in Aix-en-Provence; died there Oct. 22, 1906. A leading French post-impressionist painter.
Cézanne attended a drawing school in Aix from 1858 to 1862 and the Académie Suisse in Paris from 1861 to 1865. Through his childhood friend E. Zola and his fellow student C. Pissarro, he met Manet, Monet, Renoir, and other future impressionists. Beginning in 1874 he exhibited with the impressionists, but the salon jury consistently, except in 1882, rejected his work. Cezanne’s early paintings show the influence of Veronese, Tintoretto, Delacroix and Daumier. His interpretation of their creative traditions, however, was often exaggerated and resulted in phantasmagoric scenes marked by unrestrained expressiveness (L’Orgie, 1864–68, private collection, Paris; L’Assassinat, 1867–70, Wildenstein Gallery, New York). Cezanne’s works of the 1860’s also reflect the influence of Courbet, with their somewhat ponderous “objectivity” in handling the pigment and their dark and muted tones (Le Poêle dans l’atelier, 1865–68, private collection, London).
Beginning in the 1870’s, Cézanne developed his own system of painting, which was essentially perfected by the end of the next decade. He turned to plein-air painting, and his palette became lighter. A departure from impressionism became evident. Cézanne was interested neither in the changeability of colors in the atmosphere nor in the dynamics of his surroundings. He also did not care for fortuitous chiaroscuro effects. Instead he was concerned with the stable laws of color relations and the material intensity and tangible objectivity of nature (The Suicide’s House, 1872–73; A Turn in the Road—both in the Museum of Impressionism, Paris). Determined to understand nature while elaborating a single motif over a long span of time, Cézanne strove to create a “classical” art, one set apart in his mind from everything transient and insignificant. He sought to reveal the grandeur and perfection of nature, not subject to changes in time or space, and the organic unity of natural forms. In his portraits (Portrait of L. Guillaume, 1879–82, National Gallery, Washington), thematic compositions (Pierrot and the Harlequin, 1888, Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow), landscapes (Montagne le Victoire, 1900, Hermitage, Leningrad), and still lifes (Still Life With Apples and Oranges, 1895–1900, Museum of Impressionism, Paris), the objects represented symbolize the equilibrium of natural forces: they are monumentally static, perfectly finished, and self-contained. Cézanne produced epic landscapes with spherical panoramic effects, working mainly with shades of the three colors—green, blue, yellow—now exquisitely refined, now sharply contrasted (Montagne le Victoire at Dusk, c. 1905, Pushkin Museum, Moscow). His colors helped define spatial planes, which the artist combined harmoniously with precise line and clarity of composition. In his still lifes Cézanne brought out the plastic richness of the objective world, stressing the structure of his subjects, lending “weight” to form through the use of pure colors, and making use of reverse perspective, that is, unfolding the object in the direction of the viewer (Peaches and Pears, late 1880’s, the A. S. Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow).
During his last years, Cézanne often painted female and male bathers, seeking to synthetize in many-figured compositions plasticity with clarity and monumentality. At the same time, his later works exhibit marked contradictions. As he deliberately simplified actual masses and their spatial relations by reducing them to the simplest geometric forms, he not only stressed the structural harmony of the universe but also achieved a considerable abstractness of design.
The principles of Cezanne’s art, which in their entirety had a profound influence on 20th-century painting and on the work of artists of diverse style, were nonetheless often given a onesided interpretation. Followers of avant-garde trends either hypertrophied the forms in a deadly way (Cézannism), intensified the color to the utmost (fauvism), or developed Cezanne’s geometrical treatment of natural bodies and, as a result, turned to abstraction (cubism).
REFERENCESVollard, A. Sezann. Leningrad, 1934. (Translated from French.)
Iavorskaia, N. V. Sezann. Moscow, 1965.
Vseobshchaia istoriia iskusstv, vol. 6, book 1. Moscow, 1965.
Perruschot, H. Sezann. (Article by V. N. Prokof’eva.) Moscow, 1966. (Translated from French.)
Rusakova, R. P. Sezann (album). Moscow, 1970.
Pol’ Sezann, perepiska, vospominaniia sovremennikov. Compiled, annotated, and with an introductory article by N. V. Iavorskaia. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from French.)
Venturi, L. Cezanne, son art, son oeuvre, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1936.
Rewald, J. The Ordeal of P. Cézanne. London, 1950.
Badt, K. Die Kunst Cézannes. Munich, 1956.
Loran, E. Cézanne’s Composition. Berkeley, 1963.
V. A. MARKOV