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Who is Paul Cezanne?

Paul Cézanne was a French Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations for the transition from 19th-century artistic concepts to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. His unique approach to form and color influenced the visual language of modern art. How did his vision shape the future of painting? Continue exploring with us.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Paul Cezanne is known as one of the most talented Post-Impressionist painters. Whereas Impressionism focused on light and color, the Post-Impressionists wanted more depth in their art with much more concentration on form. Cezanne was also pivotal in art movements such as cubism and he influenced Pablo Picasso.

The work of Cezanne features an innovative way of representing nature, color and form by using an ordered method of artistic application. His approach inspired cubists and cutting edge artists. Cezanne said that "Everything in nature takes its form from the sphere, the cone and the cylinder" and cubism was founded on these principles of form. Pablo Picasso, along with Georges Braque, was a leader in the cubist modern art movement.

Paul Cezanne is known for using a palette knife to layer paint on his works.
Paul Cezanne is known for using a palette knife to layer paint on his works.

The Post-Impressionist artists experimented with meaning outside just what the surface of the painting represented, yet were still influenced by Impressionism's use of light to add dimension to objects. Paul Cezanne and other Post-Impressionists experimented with brighter colors and sharper edges than the Impressionist works had shown. Cezanne is considered a master at creating form with color in both planes and brushstrokes.

Born 19 January 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, France, Cezanne was a banker's son and was raised in an environment of wealth. His family wanted him to become a lawyer and Cezanne did study law while also studying art. Eventually, however, he gave up law for art and went to the Academie Suisse in Paris to learn all he could and develop his talent. His early artistic influences included the works of Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet. It was Courbet who inspired Cezanne's layering of paint onto his paintings using a palette knife.

By the mid-1870s Paul Cezanne created color and form with controlled brushstrokes to add the look of fullness and dimension to objects. His still life paintings went beyond capturing light in purely an Impressionist manner. For example, in Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, he uses many subtle tones of color to add shape to the forms of the fruit and flowers.

In the early 1880's, Cezanne began painting landscapes of Provence. His works of houses and boats used planes of color to create depth. He married in 1886 and had one son, Paul Cezanne, Jr.

Cezanne's 1890s set of five paintings, The Card Players, features figures of Provencal peasants playing cards. The works are highly acclaimed for their subtle variations in color that create realistic human forms. On 22 October, 1906, Paul Cezanne died of pneumonia and complications of diabetes in his birthplace of Aix-en-Provence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Paul Cézanne and why is he significant in art history?

Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations for the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne's often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields, challenging the conventional values of painting in his time which contributed to the development of modern art.

What are some of Paul Cézanne's most famous works?

Paul Cézanne is renowned for a variety of works that have become iconic in the art world. Some of his most famous paintings include "The Bathers," which showcases his mastery of human form and landscape, "Mont Sainte-Victoire" series that illustrates his fascination with the French countryside, and "Still Life with Apples," demonstrating his skill in depicting everyday objects with profound depth and texture. These works are celebrated for their influence on the direction of modern art.

How did Paul Cézanne influence other artists and movements?

Paul Cézanne is often referred to as the father of modern art. His approach to painting influenced the aesthetic development of many 20th-century artists and art movements. For instance, his method of breaking down objects into geometric forms helped lay the groundwork for Cubism, inspiring artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Additionally, his focus on the underlying structure of compositions resonated with artists associated with Fauvism and Abstract Expressionism, making his influence pervasive across various art movements.

What techniques and styles did Paul Cézanne develop?

Paul Cézanne developed a distinctive style that involved building up color with layers of paint, creating a complex, textured surface. He experimented with perspective, often flattening space and distorting forms to emphasize their compositional weight. His technique of using short, hatched brushstrokes to modulate color subtly was innovative, as was his analytical approach to nature, seeking to capture its underlying geometric patterns. These techniques challenged traditional methods and paved the way for modernist approaches to painting.

Where can one view Paul Cézanne's artwork today?

Paul Cézanne's artwork is held in numerous prestigious museums and galleries around the world. Notable collections can be found at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in London, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Additionally, his works are often featured in special exhibitions and retrospectives globally, giving art enthusiasts the opportunity to view his influential pieces in various contexts.

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Discussion Comments

Shani Skinny

Paul Cezanne was really a great artist. i love him!


Thanks. it helped me a lot with my homework. Thanks again.

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    • Paul Cezanne is known for using a palette knife to layer paint on his works.
      By: fantasy
      Paul Cezanne is known for using a palette knife to layer paint on his works.