July 29, 2010

The Art of Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) was born in Aix-en Provence in the south of France. He is regarded as one of the greatest Post-Impressionists and is often referred to as “the father of modern art.” Although Cézanne was a contemporary of the Impressionists, his abrasive intensity and social awkwardness made him the outsider of the group.

(Cézanne, Paul. Still Life with Curtain and Flowered Pitcher. c. 1899. oil on canvas. The Hermitage Museum, Leningrad.)

Where the Impressionists were concerned with surface and appearance, Cézanne was concerned with structure and how to represent the solid three-dimensional features of nature on the flat surface of a canvas.

(Cézanne, Paul. Le Bleu Vase (The Blue Vase) c. 1885-87. oil on canvas. Musee d'Orsay, Paris.)

Cézanne went to school in Aix, where he studied law. He began to take drawing classes at the same time and against the resistance of his father, he made up his mind to quit law school and paint. He moved to Paris in 1861 where he met and studied under Camille Pissarro.

(Cézanne, Paul. House of the Hanged Man. c. 1873. oil on canvas. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.)

At this time Cézanne's brushstroke begins to loosen up. He begins to assimilate the principles of color and lighting as the Impressionists did yet he retained his own sense of mass and the interaction of planes as shown in the House of the Hanged Man.

(Cézanne, Paul. The Large Bathers. c. 1899. oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.)

Cézanne says, “Everything in nature takes its form from a sphere, cone or a cylinder.” In the late 1870s he began a “constructive” style in which he grouped parallel lines and forms together. Using consistent and hatched brushstrokes he built up formations with a sense of mass.

(Cézanne, Paul. Mont Sainte-Victoire (Mount St. Victory). c. 1902-05. oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.)

Cézanne later moved back to Aix where he concentrated on a few basic still life objects. He chose apples and oranges because they lasted longer than flowers, although he would work on his subjects long enough for the fruit to rot.

(Cézanne, Paul. Pommes et oranges (Apples and oranges). c. 1895. oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris.)

These complex compositions were created by tilting balanced objects toward the viewer, which were then stabilized by the edges of the underlying objects and the geometry of the folds in the table cloth. He begins to use dashes of color applied in parallel strokes to define the objects rather than the use of traditional shading.

(Cézanne, Paul. Pommes, pêches, poires et raisins (Apples, peaches, pears and grapes). c. 1870. oil on canvas. Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.)

Cézanne was not interested in capturing exactly what he saw or the impression of what he saw, he wanted to make ordered and balanced compositions based on careful the observation of color and design and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)
Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing. 2008.
Reference: Web Museum, Paris