Portrait of the artist Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne


"I do not paint as I see, I paint as I feel. An art which isn't based on feeling isn't an art at all...". Paul Cézanne’s Post-Impressionistic paintings laid the foundations of the transition for 20th-century art. In particular, Cubists and Fauvists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse traced their art directly back to Cézanne. Cézanne was one of the first painters to deliberately change sizes and perspectives in his paintings in order to achieve special effects and vividness.

Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence on 19 January 1839 as the son of a small banker. The very late artistic recognition made the artist financially dependent on his father throughout his whole life. The Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Paris Salon constantly rejected his submissions, resulting in him becoming a reclusive loner. Complying with his father's wishes, Cézanne attended the law school. He, therefore, educated himself as an autodidact in the field of arts and studied the works of Rubens, Delacroix and Poussin. He often worked in the group of Impressionists and even exhibited with them. However, he distanced himself from their style, as he wanted to create a "solid and lasting like art" that was only carrying a few Impressionistic features such as the bright colour palette and the atmospheric, flickering colourfulness.

Cézanne painted almost exclusively landscapes of the Aix-en-Provence region, still lifes and everyday scenes, in which he did not want to reproduce visible nature but what he perceived. He developed a new conception of space, form and colour that was to set the trend for subsequent generations of painters. Quite rightly he is called the "father of modernism".

The real significance of his works was only recognised after his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1895. Further exhibitions followed and finally, his paintings were sold at high prices. Nevertheless, he slowly retired due to his deteriorated health. Even his wife and son, who both lived in Paris, could no longer get through to him. Finally, Cézanne died alone on 22 October 1906 of pneumonia in his studio in Aix-en-Provence.

The large memorial exhibition "Myth of Cézanne" was commemorated just one year later with 56 of his paintings.