Paul Cézanne was the mainstay of the late Impressionists. His works were misunderstood and denigrated by the public for most of his life, but as Impressionism eventually grew through his insistence on individual expression and his desire to preserve the integrity of the painting itself, he was revered as the "father of Art Nouveau" from the late 19th century. As a pioneer of modern art, modern Western painters call him "the father of modern art" or "the father of modern painting." Cézanne was an important painter between Impressionism and Cubism.
Paul Cézanne was born on January 19, 1839, in Aix-en-Provence. When he was nine years old, his father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, founded a bank and the Cézanne family went from modest to wealthy. He grew up without a substantial connection to painting but was otherwise well educated. In 1852, Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon, where he shared the same aspirations as Émile Zola. He aspired to a career in the arts, while Zola dreamed of becoming a good writer. In 1858, Cézanne enrolled at the Université d'Aix, in accordance with his father's wishes. At that time, he did not resist, as he was skeptical of his artistic talents. Uninterested in the law, Cézanne suffered for two years at school and firmly decided to devote himself to painting. Eventually, a father-son agreement was reached, and his father arranged for him to have a studio so that he could study painting in his spare time during his law classes under the direction of local artist Joseph Gibert. His father continued to sponsor him for the next twenty years or so.
Cézanne arrived in Paris in April 1861, struggling to make ends meet with the one hundred and twenty-five francs his father sent him each month. He studied painting at the Académie Suisse, where he hoped to take his first steps as a professional artist, but the reality was not what he had hoped for. Even though he had received the approval of Camille Pissarro, the founder of Impressionism, he still had deep self-doubts about his art. In the fifth month of his stay in Paris, he decided to return to Aix-en-Provence.
In the winter of 1862, Cézanne decided to go to Paris again. This time, he wanted to make a career out of painting. During his eight years in Paris, he had built up some fame, but the official Salon did not recognize him. His insulted pride forced Cézanne to sink deeper into his work, gradually creating his unique style. In the mid-seventies, wielding a palette knife in an almost violent manner with quick strokes, Cézanne completed one work after another while gaining some recognition. In 1869, Cézanne submitted his work Afternoon in Naples to the Salon but was rejected. In the same year, he married Hortense Fiquet, a model. In 1872, Fiquet gave birth to Cézanne's son Paul, but at this time, Cézanne was living in poverty and could not even afford to pay for his son's living expenses, so he had to rely on his friend Zola's support. During this period, his painting style was very gloomy, with grotesque compositions and often heavy brush strokes depicting dull whites.
In 1888, Cézanne went to live in Paris for a year, often meeting Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Émile Bernard, but in truth, he did not like them. He ended up living in seclusion in Aix, with occasional visits to Fontainebleau, Giverny, Vichy, and a few days in Paris. There was no period in his life as balanced and tranquil as the period from 1885 to 1906. During this period, he painted The Bathers, The Blue Vase, Boy with a Red Vest, and many portraits of his wife, and it was also during this period that he painted the series Les joueurs de cartes (The Card Players). In 1899, he came to Paris for the last time and then returned to Aix, accompanied by a very loyal housekeeper until the end of his life.
Paul Cézanne and His Apples
"I want to shock the whole of Paris with an apple," Paul Cézanne said confidently, and he did. He painted countless still life throughout his life, 270 of which used apples, revealing a three-dimensional world in his paintings and breaking through the hazy confines of Impressionism. Viewers who look at each work of Cézanne alone will not feel any difference in these apples. Once they focus on the apples from different periods, a soul-shaking excitement will inevitably grow. Today his apples have shocked not only Paris but the whole world. His mad love for apples is like Van Gogh's love for sunflowers, Monet's love for water lilies, and Degas' love for ballerinas.
Bouilloire et fruits, painted between 1888 and 1,890, symbolize another landmark moment in the history of modern art. Cézanne's careful attention to the nuances of shape, color, and texture of the objects and his rich, full-bodied brushwork of a group of still life on a tabletop made his artworks a revolutionary force in the 20th century.