Cézanne, Paul

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Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)

Merely a Post-Impressionist



Was Cézanne an Impressionist?

Most books on Impressionism render ample room for Paul Cézanne. This is strange, while art-historian agree that Impressionism was just a fase in his artistic career during from about 1872-78. When we look closely this is even more strange, because Cézanne never fully was an Impressionist. He was just a side-figure within the ‘impressionist’ art-movement. He was no c0-founder of the ‘Société Anonyme…’ and passively only joined 2 of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions just exhibiting 20 works. Though he maintained lifelong contacts with Pissarro and Renoir and also had contacts with Monet and Guillaumin, he was not in the centre of the circles of friends. Also because much of his time he stayed in the south in the surroundings of Aix-en-Provence.
When we look at his painting style we see that Cézanne often uses subdued colours. Though his brushstroke can be loose, he often uses broad expressive brushstrokes or patterns of symmetric brushstrokes, in both ways the painting doesn’t vibrate very much. Cézanne his focus mostly is not on the influence of the fleeting light on the colours of the subject, but on using colours to render form, on rendering a solid composition. This we can also see in the titles of his work; here almost no indication of season, time of day or weather conditions. Cézanne called 11 of the 20 works he exhibited with the Impressionists a study. It seems that he didn’t agree with the idea that a sketchy way of rendering a subject is the best way of depicting the fleeting moment. Though it is true that he mostly painted en-plein-air, that his palet was lightened under the influence of Pissarro and that he announced blacks, we still can say that Cézanne hardly painted in an impressionist style.


Cézanne joined the ‘impressionist’ expositions only two times:

At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition Cézanne showed 3 works (R2). He was urgently requested to exhibit by Pissarro (R48).
Zola (1874/04/18)  praises his youth friend for his ‘great originality’. Prouvaire (=Toloza;1874/04/20) mentions his ‘over-exclusive love of yellow’ (R2,p126;R87,p234/5). Most critics are disdainful (R48;R164,p10).
Refuses to join the second ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876 (R48).
At the 3rd ‘impressionist’ exposition Cézanne showed 16+1hc=17 works (R2). Most critics are negative. Positive review by Georges Rivière. (R48)
See link for the pictures exhibited in 1874 and in 1877. See link for an account.


Cézanne at the Salon and other exhibitions:

Cézanne was rejected many times at the Salon. The only time he exhibited at the Salon was in 1882 with a portrait, being called a pupil of Guillemet (iR1;R48;R164,p11;R3). He is rejected for the Salons of 1863 +64 + 65 + 66 (2 works; asks for a new Salon des Refusés) + 74 (R48;R34,p21-3;R164,p8). In 1863 he exhibits at the Salon des Refusés, but is not mentioned in the catalogue (R34,p21;iR1).
Exhibits with ‘les XX’ in Brussels in 1887 + 90 (R48;R34,p49). Exhibits at the ‘Libre Esthétique in Brussels in 1901 + 04 (R48). Exhibits at the Salon-des-Indépendants in 1899 + 1901 + 02 + 05  (R48;R34,p63+67;R164,p14). Exhibits at the Salon-des-Automne in 1904 (one room; 33 works) + 1905 + 1906 (10 works) + 1907 (posthumous; 56 works) (R48;R34,p67;R163,p130;R164,p15).
Exhibits at the Exposition Centanel in 1889 with the ‘house of the hang-man + in 1900 (R48;R34,p49+66). One man shows at Vollard (1895; 150 works); Bernheim-Jeune (posthumous in 1910; 68 works) (R48;R34,p64;R163,p106;R164,p13).


Cézanne, his first ‘dramatic / romantic / expressionistic’ years:

1856: Cézanne starts drawing lessons (R164,p5;R48). 1860: inspired by Loubon, a regional painter (R48). 1860 (or 1862): friendship with the painter Achille Emperaire (R48;R34,p18). 1861/04-09: stays in Paris and visits Académie Suisse; start friendship with Pissarro and Guillaumin; copies at the Louvre; inspired by Caravaggio, Courbet, Daumier, Delacroix, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez; is rejected for the École des Beaux-Arts (R48;R34,p16;R164,p6;R33,p17). 1862/11- 1864/07: visits again Académie Suisse in Paris; again rejected for the École des Beaux-Arts; meets Francisco Oller and Guillemet; he sometimes visits Café Guerbois, but is not very involved; contacts with Bazille, Monet, Renoir and Sisley (R48;R34,p18;R164,p7;R33,p19+39). 1866: acquaintance with Manet; Cézanne despises his idle behaviour (R48;R34,p26;R164,p8). Cézanne also would detest Degas (R48,p6).
The themes Cézanne indicates in his early works are: decadence, violence, cruelness, death and erotism. He depicts scenes from mythology, the Bible and literature and renders them in a very dramatic way, using dark-light contrasts with grey and dark shadows. Woman are depicted as a temptation or as a victim. Bodies are rendered in a distorted way. In these works he expresses his own fears and desires. The brushstroke is energetic applying thick paint. He often uses a palet knife. (R34,p23-7;R164,p24;R33,p24). His works can be described as ‘wild-expressionistic’ (R34,p28). Dony describes this first period as his romantic period until 1971 (R48,p84). Manet describes Cézanne with disdain as a ‘mason with his trowel’ (R34,p38).
Though Dony (R48) and Nonhoff (R34) let this period end in 1871, Cézanne continues to paint the same dramatic themes in the rest of the 1870s (R48,no252+268+271+280). The distinctive periods in his career can beter be seen as a spiral than as a straight line (R164,p35).


Cézanne, the impressionist years:

1872: starts to paint in the surroundings of Pontoise (R48;R34,p31). 1872: start support by Dr. Gachet (R48;R34,p34). 1873: meets Père Tanguy (R48;R34,p34). 1875: meets Victor Chocquet, who would collect 32 of his works (R48,p8;R34,p35;R3). 1877: again paints in the surroundings of Pontoise (R48). 1877: not many contacts with his friends (R48).
In 1870 in l’Estaque Cézanne starts to paint motives from nature and will do so the rest of his live (R34,p28). In 1872 Pissarro teaches him to observe nature, to lighten his palet, to renounce blacks, to render the influence of light and to use short brushstrokes (R34,p32+44;R164,p25).
Later on Cézanne will develop a distinctive brushstroke by using patterns of  symmetric, rectangular brushstrokes (R34,p33+43+70;R164,p21). He will use this brushstroke to render form and volume and tightly composed works, rather than rendering the momentary influence of light (R34,p39;R164,p20/1;R33,p). With this brushstroke he will accentuate the rectangular shapes of house and roofs (R164,p25/6).


Cézanne, the later Post-Impressionist years:

1880: renewed contacts with his impressionist friends (R48). 1881/05-10: paints again in Pontoise with Pissarro (R34,p41;R48). 1883 + 1885: paints with Renoir in Roche-Guyon (R48). 1883: paints with Monticelli in the Provence (R48). 1884/02: meets Monet and Renoir in l’Estaque (R48). 1888: meets Van Gogh, but doesn’t like his work (R48). 1889/Summer: Renoir visits him at ‘Jas de Bouffan’, together they paint Mont Sainte-Victoire (R34,p77;R48). 1894: visits Monet in Giverny; they have frequent quarrels (R48). 1900: Maurice Denis paints ‘homage à Cézanne’ (R48;R163,p106). 1902: meets Charles Camoin and Émile Bernard (R48).
Mario de Micheli divides this later period in several periods, but is not consistent. He writes about periods of ‘constructive analysis’ (1878-1890), ‘syntheticism’ (1890-1906). (R164,p11+26/7). The period of constructive analysis is also called Cézanne’s period of constructivism (R164,no28+32). But later on he indicates that the synthetic period already started around 1882 à 87 and he calls the period 1900-06 his grand finale, a lyrical period (R164,p26/7). Dony dates the constructive period from 1878-87 (R48,p102). Cézanne combined classicism, which was focussed on the construction and romanticism, which was focussed on rendering emotions through colour (R33,p9).
Cézanne rejected the rendering of traditional laws of perspective; lines don’t come together in one vanishing point, but continue in different directions; the line of the horizon was no longer straight horizontal; the depth in his paintings disappear; foreground and background dissolve (R34,p46-7+51+71+79;R164,p22). Cézanne renders a motive seen from different viewpoints (R34,p55;R163,p127;R164,p22). He already did so with houses in l’Estaque (R34,p43). Cézanne didn’t purely want to render what he saw, but to construct a harmonic and firm composition parallel to nature, to create a new reality, to render what lies behind the natural phenomenon, to render the sense of it’s duration (R34,p46+54;R164,p16-8;R33,p8). The painting so becomes an autonomous entity (R164,p21). He reduces the painted elements to 3 elementary forms: the sphere, the cone, the cilinder (R34,p70;R164,p21/2;R33,p7/8;R48,p6). His bathers have disfigured bodies, no human expression and no relation with each other (R34,p82). Portraits lack emotion and individuality to show the constant in a character (R164,no35). Cézanne uses terrestrial colours, many browns and greyish blues and greens (R34,p45-7). Many used motives are: Monte Sainte-Victoire (R34,p46/7+78/9;R163,p128); bathers (R34,p82-85;R48); portraits (R48;R34;R48); still lives (R34,p54-7); the quarry at Bibémus (R34,p49+70);  card players (R34,p59;R163,p112).
Cézanne has been an inspiration for cubistique painters like Braque, Gris, Léger, Picasso and fauvist painters like Derain and Matisse (R334,p88-91;R163;R164,p16;R48,p9).


Cézanne as an artist:

In total Cézanne made more than 30 self-portraits and more than 40 portraits of his wife (R164,p33/4). In total Cézanne depicted the Mont Sainte-Victoire at least 65 times (R164,no74). It often took Cézanne an excessive amount of time to complete a painting; therefor he used artificial fruit. (R164,no24).


Cézanne his character:

Cézanne could be very suspicious (R33,p9;R48,p10). He could have outbursts of anger (R33,p9+11;R48,p7). He had periods of depression (R33,p39). He could be arrogant and shy (R33,p10/11). He had fear for live and women in particular (R33,p10). Cézanne would attract and alienate people (R33,p9). He was afraid of being touched (R33,p9). In the 1880s he became a fervent catholic (R33,p10).


Cézanne, a short biography:

  • 1839/01/19: Paul Cézanne was born at 23, Rue-de-l’Opéra in Aix-en-Provence (R48;R33,p11;R34,p8;R163,p8;R164,p3;R33,p11), 33km north of Marseille (iR9). Nonhoff writes at one page he was born the 9th; probably an erratum (R34,p7).
  • 1841/07/04: his sister Marie was born (R48;R34,p7)
  • 1844/01/29: his father Louis-Auguste officially marries his mother Anne Élisabeth Honorine Aubert (R48;R34,p8;R164,p8;R33,p12).
  • 1848: his father starts as a banker; the family becomes rich (R48;R34,p7).
  • 1852: at school start friend with Emile Zola and Baptistin Baille (R48;R34,p10;R163,p18;R164,p4;R33,p22).
  • 1854/06/30: his sister Rose was born (R48;R34,p7)
  • 1858/02: Zola moves to Paris and becomes a writer and art-critic (R48;R34,p13;R164,p5;R33,p15); he will hardly mentions Cézanne in his articles (R34,p53;R33,p40).
  • 1859: his father buys the estate ‘Jas de Bouffan’, where Paul has his own little studio (R48;R34,p14;R164,p3).
  • 1861/04-09: lives at Rue des Feuillantines in Paris (R48;R164,p6).
  • His father gives him a monthly support of 150 francs (R34,p17).
  • 1862/11-1864/07: again in Paris (R48).
  • 1864-70 (and also later on): Cézanne will live alternating periods in the south (mainly in Aix and l’Estaque) and in Paris (and surroundings) (R164,p8;R48;R34).
  • 1869: start relationship with Hortense Fiquet; keeps the relationship hidden for his father (R48;R34,p28+50;R163,p42;R164,p10).
  • 1870/1: stays during the Franco-Prussian war in L’Estaque (R48;R34,p28;R164,p9), 11km north-west of Marseille (iR9).
  • 1871: lives at the Rue de Chevreuse in Paris (R48;R34,p29).
  • 1872/01/04: his son Paul is born; keeps it hidden for his father (R48;R34,p31+50;R163,p42;R164,p10).
  • 1872/Spring: moves to Pontoise (R48;R34,p31).
  • 1872/Autumn – 1874/Spring: moves to close by Auvers-sur-Oise; lives in the house of Dr. Gachet, who will also buy his pictures (R34,p34;R48).
  • 1875: lives at Rue de Vaugirard in Paris; also stays in the south (R48).
  • 1876: stays partly in l’Estaque (R48).
  • 1877: lives at Rue de l’Ouest in Paris (R48).
  • 1878/07-1879/03: is most of the time in l’Estaque and often goes to Aix (R34,p42;R48)
  • 1878: his father discovered the existence of his grandson and reduces the financial assistance (R48,p8;R34,p50). Zola will support the family (R34,50+53).
  • 1879/05-80/02: stays in Melun (R48;R34,p41), about 50km south-east of Paris (iR9).
  • 1879-85: Often visits Zola in Médan (R48;R34,p41+53), 33km west of Paris (iR9)
  • 1880/02-1881/05: stays in Paris (R48).
  • 1881/05-10: stays in Pontoise (R34,p41;R48).
  • 1882/03-09: stays in Paris (R48).
  • 1884: is most of the time in Aix (R48).
  • 1885: short love affair (R48).
  • 1886: Zola publishes his novel ‘l’Oeuvre’ about the painter Claude Lantier; Cézanne recognizes himself in the painter and breaks up the friendship with Zola (R48,p9;R163,p86;R164,p12)
  • 1886/04/28: marries Hortense Fiquet (R48;R34,p49;R163,p82;R164,p10)
  • 1886/10/23: his father dies; Paul inherits a large amount of money (R48,p9;R34,p49;R163,p82;R164,p11)
  • 1891: holiday in Switzerland (R48;R164,p13); or in 1890 (R34,p49).
  • 1895: large solo exhibition at Gallerie Vollard (iR194).
  • 1897/10/25: his mother dies (R48;R34,p63;R164,p13).
  • 1899: sell of the estate Jas de Bouffan (R34,p72).
  • 1899: buys (or rents)  a house at 23, Rue Boulegon, Aix-en-Provence; he will live her until his death; his wife and son live most of the time in Paris (R48;R34,p51+72;R164,p13).
  • 1901/11: builds a house with a high studio in Les Lauves a few kilometers north of Aix; it is now open for visitors (R48;R34,p72/3).
  • 1902/09/29: Zola dies (R48)
  • 1906/10/22: dies in his house in Aix after he had caught cold in a heavy storm while painting outside (R48;R164,p15); Borghesi writes he died the 23th (R163,p128).
  • 1906: he is buried at a cemetery in Aix-en-Provence (R48).
  • 1907: posthumous exhibition at the Salon d’Automne (iR194).
  • 1923: the Chemin des Lauves in Aix is renamed Avenue Paul Cézanne (R48).



My main sources are the online cezannecatalogue (=FWN=iR194;cpR118), Murphy (1971=R33), Nonhoff (2005=R34), Dony (1976=R48,p11-14), Borghesi (2006=R163), De Micheli (1968=R164). Other main sources are Moffett (R2), Walther (R3,p653), Denvir (R5), the Salon database (iR1), Wikipedia (iR3) and the additional references (aRx). The older sources mostly refer to the Catalogue Raisonné of Venturi (1936): Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre (referred to as CRx=R189). For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the-athenaeum (iR2), Wikimedia (iR6), google-images (iR10), Mutualart (iR11), and the additional references (aRx). For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
For further reading:


Additional references:

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