The Spirit of Paul Cezanne

August 11, 2015

There is a quote often attributed to both Matisse and Picasso that claims that Paul Cezanne is “the father of us all”. While nobody is sure if either of the artists actually ever said that, it shows the high regard in which Paul Cezanne’s name is held.

Bridging the gap between impressionism and cubism, Cezanne’s work is highly recognisable, characterised by short, repetitive brushstrokes which build up to form deep, complex shapes and forms.

Cezanne’s name is of Italian origin, but he was born in Provences, France. The son of a wealthy banker, the young Cezanne was originally destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he went against his father’s wishes and moved to Paris to pursue his career in the arts instead.

As the story goes with many respected artists, Cezanne’s work was mocked and ridiculed by critics, but beloved by young artists who visited his studios in Aix. His work represents a mastery of design, colour and composition, as well as a more in-depth understanding of human binocular vision which was new at the time and appealed to younger artists. After he died in 1906, his paintings were exhibited in a Paris exhibition.

Cezanne used his art to explore geometric forms and often simplified complex shapes in his work, which even untrained eyes like mine can see in Picasso’s later pieces. He also experimented with multiple viewpoints in the same pieces, which again you can see in the unusual perspectives in Picasso’s more avant garde art.

Cezanne’s work also inspired modern expressionist artists. One of his most famous paintings is The Murder, from the “dark period” of his work, and this is considered the inception of modern expressionism by many fans.

Other famous pieces by Cezanne include the Boy in the Red Vest and Portrait of Madame Cezanne with Loosened Hair, one of Cezanne’s 44 portraits of his lover, wife and eventual ex-wife Hortense Fiquet. 1901’s Pyramid of Skulls is unique for Cezanne in that it places the subject of the painting close to the viewer and has gone on to inspire artists as recent as Andy Warhol.

Perhaps Cezanne’s most famous painting, however, is The Bathers, which featured in the BBC’s list of 100 greatest paintings. The piece is said to have paved the way for future artists to break from tradition and helped bridge impressionism with artistic movements of the 20th century.


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