Paul Cézanne 1839–1906

Paul Cezanne 1870s
Paul Cezanne 1870s

One of the most influential artists in the history of twentieth-century painting, Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) has inspired generations of modern artists. Generally categorized as a Post-Impressionist, his unique method of building form with color and his analytical approach to nature influenced the art of Cubists, Fauvists, and successive generations of avant-garde artists.

Self Portrait in front of olive wallpaper 1881
Self Portrait in
front of olive wallpaper
1881

Beginning to paint in 1860 in his birthplace of Aix-en-Provence and subsequently studying in Paris, Cézanne's early pictures of romantic and classical themes are imbued with dark colors and executed with an expressive brushwork in the tradition of Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863). Dramatic tonal contrasts and thick layers of pigment (often applied with a palette knife) exemplify the vigor in which Cézanne painted during the 1860s, especially apparent in the portrait series of his uncle Dominique Aubert, variously costumed as a lawyer, an artist, and a monk . This kind of costume piece is reminiscent of Édouard Manet's Spanish paintings of the 1860s. While the three works that Cézanne exhibited in 1874 at the first Impressionist exhibition were not fully in line with the Impressionist technique of quickly placing appliqués of pigment on the canvas, he did eventually abandon his relatively dark palette in exchange for brilliant tones and began painting out-of-doors, encouraged by the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
In his still-life paintings from the mid-1870s, Cézanne abandoned his thickly encrusted surfaces and began to address technical problems of form and color by experimenting with subtly gradated tonal variations, or "constructive brushstrokes," to create dimension in his objects