Eminent Post-Impressionist, Paul Cezanne painted over 200 still-life compositions during his lifetime. His innovative uses of perspective, composition and color have profoundly influenced and shaped 20th century art. Cezanne is often referred to as the “father of modern art.”
Paul Cezanne was born on January 19, 1839, to a wealthy banker in the French town of Aix-en-Provence. His father, Louis-Auguste Cezanne, and his mother, Anne-Elisabeth-Honorine Auburt, did not marry until he was five years old.
Cezanne developed his interest in art at an early age, and began to take drawing lessons at Bourbon College when he was 13 years old. His father did not approve of the young Cezanne’s interest in art, and encouraged him to take up interest in a more profitable field. Eventually, however, his father’s argument was defeated by Cezanne’s love for painting.
In 1861, Cezanne convinced his father to allow him to go to Paris with his boyhood companion Emile Zola (whom he met at Bourbon College.) His father finally consented and even gave him a small allowance to take with him. Cezanne’s stay in Paris, however, did not last as long as anticipated. He struggled with a bout of depression and began doubting his skill in his chosen career.
Cezanne returned home to his family, where he spent a year working with his banker father. This experience enlightened him, and convinced him to return to his passion of art and creation.
Cezanne returned to Paris, but his renewed attitude towards painting suffered a further setback. He failed the entrance exam for the painting school, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Cezanne's early works are reflective of his depression and self-doubt. His works were mostly dark and composed of heavy pigment. This can be seen in such works as The Abduction (1867).
He eventually gained a reputation for being an eccentric after exhibiting strange antisocial behaviors, such as refusing to shake hands with Manet giving the excuse that he (Cezanne) had not washed for eight days.
At age 30, Cezanne underwent a drastic change in attitude and habits. Perhaps this is due to his meeting Hortense Fiquet – the woman who became his mistress for many years. The black and depressing illustrations in his paintings gradually changed as he began to focus mainly on landscape subjects.
For many years, still-lifes and landscapes were Cezanne's main subjects of focus. The work Apples and Oranges is one of the most famous still-life compositions Cezanne has produced.
In the early 1870’s Cezanne met the artist Pissarro, who served as his mentor and teacher. Over the next two years the two men worked together. Pissarro became a father figure to Cezanne, encouraging him in his art, and teaching him the techniques of Impressionist painting. Because of Pissarro’s influence, Cezarre began to use a lighter-colored palette, and his subjects were taken straight from nature.
Throughout the next few years, beginning in 1880, Cezanne’s eccentricity became more apparent, as he isolated himself from his family. He began to cut himself off from the outer world and lived the life of a recluse.
In his late fifties, Cezanne’s work finally began to receive the recognition it deserved. In 1895, renowned art dealer Ambroise Vollard organized an exhibit of Cezanne’s work in Paris.
Towards 1900, Cezanne’s health began to slowly deteriorate. He eventually died of pneumonia on October 22, 1906 leaving behind an inspiring legacy of paintings.