“Cézanne is the father of us all," is a remark attributed to not one but two incredible artists, Matisse and Picasso. Even today, few can be considered more influential than Cézanne in the history of modern art.
Who is Cézanne?
Paul Cézanne was a French born, Post-Impressionist artist, one of the greatest. Raised in Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne belonged to a wealthy bourgeois family and received a classical education. His father was a successful banker who intended for his son to take on the same profession. Cézanne however had no interest in doing so, having decided at an early age to pursue an artistic career instead. He escaped to Paris, but when the realisation struck that the skills of his artistic peers were much superior than his, he returned home to pursue banking. A year hence, he headed back to Paris, resolved to stand his ground there.
Although Cézanne’s tastes did not align with the Academy, he never ventured too close to the Impressionists either, besides Camille Pissarro, who became his mentor. Under his guidance, Cézanne studied the workings of Impressionism, painting in plein air, a then novel technique. Yet, Cézanne persisted in following his own vision, prioritising objective structure over the play of light, something central to Impressionism. He believed that nature could be distilled down to the cylinder, sphere and cone. Cézanne was captivated with still lifes, painting over 200 in his lifetime. His brushstrokes are often compared to dragonfly wings, dynamic in their shape and movement as they disassembled and reassembled in the viewer's eyes. These tendencies which are today characteristic of Cubism, is why Cézanne is considered to be the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and early 20th century's Cubism.
Cézanne was an artist's artist
"Why is it that you do not say a word about Cézanne, whom all of us recognize as one of the most astounding and curious temperaments of our time and who has had a very great influence on modern art?"
-Pissaro in his letter to a critic
His persistent self expression which challenged convention, caused his art to be initially discredited by critics. but Cezanne's reputation slowly began to grow. The year 1895 is of particular importance, since it was when the first one-man exhibition of his work was held at the Paris gallery. While his renown among artists, critics and gallerists increased, he was especially warmer with younger artists, communicating with them through letters about his views on art. Art was not an imitation of nature, but a "parallel" to it, serving his primary inspiration.
Several young artists of the Parisian avant-garde were fortunate to discover Cézanne's art prior to his demise, most notably the aforementioned Matisse and Picasso as well as Braque. He wished for his paintings to serve as a means of education, and his influence is easily visible in the works of the younger artists through their selection of subjects, colours and imagery. Braque even journeyed down to Provence to paint Cézanne's subjects. In his Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907 Picasso clearly stated his admiration for Cézanne's works. In 1899, artist Matisse purchased Cezanne's Three Bathers, later donating it to the city of Paris, after urging them to take special care of the artwork that "had nurtured him every day of his life."
"I am the primitive of a new art."
He was right in believing so, because he bridged the gap from the 19th-century old conception of art to the modern domain of art in the 20th century. However, much of this acclaim was posthumous, credited to him only after his death. 57 of his works became part of the Salon d'Automne, consequently inspiring new generations.
His works exerted considerable influence over his equally acclaimed contemporaries such as Valmier and Kandinsky, making him central to our artistic vision at Ruggism. Check out our Valmier Collection and stay tuned for the anticipated launch of our latest Kandinsky Collection.
Cézanne’s work “The Card Players'' became the most expensive work of art sold, when Qatar purchased it for $250 million.