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(c.1895 - c. 1900)

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Post-Impressionism is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of artists who were influenced by Impressionism but took their art in different directions.  There is no single well-defined style of Post-Impressionism, but in general it is less casual and more emotionally charged than Impressionist works.  The classic Post-Impressionists are Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Henri Rousseau. 

Paul Cezanne

France 1939. Paul Cezanne. Self-Portrait. Cézanne was born on January 19, 1839, in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence, the son of a wealthy banker. He should become one of the most important European painters of the late 19th century and, through the influence of his late works that verge almost on abstraction, his work is often viewed as a precursor of modern art, especially Cubism.

From  c.1849 to 1852 he studied at the École Saint-Joseph and from 1852 to 1858 he attended the College Bourbon, also in Aix, where he met the writer Émile Zola, with whom he formed a close friendship that lasted until the 1880s. 

  • France 1939.  Birth centenary of Paul Cezanne. Scott # 370.  The self-portrait is interesting, as it reproduced against "Mt. St. Victoire", one of Cézanne's favourite subjects, and shown below on this page. 

One of Cézanne's earliest paintings "Sorrow" was originally a wall painting which he was allowed to paint directly on the wall in his father's summer residence "Jas de Bouffan", situated two kilometers west of Aix. 

The original composition shows the mourning Maria Magdalene on the one side, and Christ Entering the Yard of Hell on the other side. 

The young artist's choice of motif shows clearly his preference for traditional themes, which were often depicted by other artists, and then interpreted to his own characteristic brush stroke. He was particularly interested in depicting the folds of the figure's clothing, which he emphasized in strong, contrasting colours. 

  • Manama 1972.  Mourning Maria Magdalene. 

Manama 1972. Paul Cezanne. Mourning Maria Magdalene.

Following his father’s plans for his career, he went at the age of 20 to study law at the University of Aix, but abandoned these studies in 1861 to take up painting full-time. He moved to Paris in early 1861, where he worked at the Académie Suisse, but was not happy there and moved back to Aix. He returned to Paris in 1862 and this time took a successful course at the Académie Suisse. 

During this period he submitted work for the Salon, but only in 1882 one of his works was accepted, and only because he named himself "Pupil of Guillaumin" [a friend from the Impressionist movement]. From 1862 until 1870 Cézanne moved continually between Aix and Paris, and then finally settled in L’Estaque en Provence, a village on the coast near Marseille. The three below paintings are all from the the 1870s, the first decade after settling in Provence. 

Monaco 1972. Paul Cezanne. Vase from Delft with Dahlias. Monaco 1974. Paul Cezanne. House of the Hanged Man. Monaco 1989. Paul Cezanne. Farmhouse in Auvers.

Cézanne had settled in Provence in order to avoid military service during the French-German war that broke out in 1870, and in L'Estaque he chose for the first time motifs from nature.

France 1994. Paul Cezanne. Mt. Saiinte-Victoire.

His paintings from this period do not differ much from his earlier paintings in colouring and expressive brush strokes, but his observations of nature in L'Estaque mark an important turning point in his artistic career. 

Landscape painting became his preferred motif in the years to come, and would remain so for the rest of his life. 

  • France 1994.  Mt St. Victoire, Cézanne's preferred motif.  Water colour 1890. Scott # 2430. 

The year 1886 was dramatic for Cézanne. Not only had he broken up with his old friend Emile Zola, but he also finally married the mother of his son Paul Cézanne Jr., Miss Hortense Fiquet, whom he had met in 1869 in Paris. Apart from the landscape paintings, Cézanne liked best to paint still lives and portraits. Other than numerous self-portraits he did a large number of his wife Hortense. Cézanne demanded of his sitters to be absolutely tranquil for hours during each sitting, so she must have been his most patient sitter. 
Paul Cezanne. Painting of Paul Cezanne Jr. Manama 1972. Paul Cezanne. The artist's wife, Hortense Fiquet. Manama 1972. Paul Cezanne. Self-Portrait.

By the end of the 1890s the artist's wife no longer accepted the long and tranquil sittings, so Cézanne found the major part of his models among the peasants and workers, who were employed on Jas de Bouffan, and whom he could pay cool cash for sitting still and, so to say, stay put during the sitting. 

France 2006. Paul Cezanne: "The Bathers", created c. 1875-1877.

Cézanne never portrayed individuals, he simply didn't care about their personal conditions of life. One will never find the socio-critical commitment that is so obvious in the works of many of his contemporary colleagues. 

The major works from the 1890s are a series of card players, which occupied Cézanne from 1890 and for years to come. There are five different ones, two of these have been reproduced on stamps. 

  • France 2006. Paul Cezanne: "The Bathers", created c. 1875-1877. Belongs to Musée d'Orsay, Paris. 

On the painting below left Cézanne reduced the number of persons from the original five to four, and on the last (below right) to only two persons.  

A large number of pencil drawings and studies in oil show that Cézanne never let his sitters stand for the whole motif in one sitting, but portrayed each figure individually and then worked out the final composition. In spite of the static compositions, each person radiates a concentrated tranquility, and lend the paintings a strong inner tension. 

Rwanta 1980. Paul Cezanne. Four Card Players. France 1961. Paul Cezanne. Two Card Players.

Cézanne's art, particularly his late works, had an enormous impact on the art of the 20th century, and many of the most important painters, among them Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevitch, Paul Klee, and Jasper Johns, have described Cézanne as the most important artist for their own artistic development. For most of them it was Cézanne's courage to break the accepted norms on how to approach the motif and his obvious opposition against the accepted rules of perspective, that brought new life to the art of the 20th century. Cézanne is rightfully described as The Father of Modern Art. 

He died in 1906, where Cubism slowly took over, mainly orchestrated by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. 


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Revised 26-sep-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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