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Paul Cézanne

Biography

French artist who did not have his first one-man show until he was age 56. In the following decade, he was

acknowledged as one of the brilliant contributors to the world of art, becoming an important influence on the

20th century creative process. He is considered the spiritual father of Impressionism.

The son of a self-made businessman, Louis-Auguste Cézanne and Élisabeth Aubert, Paul and his sister, Marie

(1841) were born out of wedlock. His parents legitimized their union in 1844; ten years later Élisabeth gave

birth to a second daughter, Rose. Louis-Auguste had established himself as a hat seller where he met

Élisabeth in his employ. After Aix's only bank failed after the 1848 revolution, Louis-Auguste acquired it.

Cézanne's closest boyhood friend, the future novelist Émile Zola, described Paul's father as "…bourgeois,

cold, meticulous, stingy…He refused his wife any luxury." Paul was Élisabeth's favorite and nurtured his dream

of becoming an artist. At age 13 Cézanne enrolled in Aix's prestigious College Bourbon where he befriended

Zola, who was younger and unpopular. Taking Zola's side against a group of school bullies, the two boys

became inseparable. Zola's parents moved to Paris in 1858 and the two young men corresponded. In 1861

after strong pleading, Zola convinced Cézanne to move to Paris defying his father's wish that he enter the

legal profession. Cézanne first vented his creative urges, ghoulish in nature, through poetry, writing of rape

and corpses. He began painting in 1862, supported by an allowance from his father. He practiced drawing at

the liberal Atelier Suisse where he developed his first, if not hesitant, associations with other painters in Paris

such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Pissarro.

With a solitary life, Cézanne developed slowly. His early paintings reflect sexual obsessions, repressed anger,

violence, pain and frustration. His works began to attract the admiration of fellow impressionists, yet Cézanne

spurned the attention, many times with insulting retorts, preferring solitude and persevering with his painting.

Upon the death of his father in 1886 Cézanne received an inheritance which provided him the financial

freedom to pursue his art. The Zola-Cézanne friendship also ended in 1886 upon the publication of Zola's

book "L'Oeuvre" in which the main character of the book is unable to finish his masterpiece and hangs himself.

The last known letter between Zola and Cézanne is a thank-you note acknowledging the painter's receipt of

the book.

Cézanne developed his impressionistic style over the years. He preferred living on the outskirts of Aix and his

best works exemplified nature. His friends were gardeners, farmers and peasants. He gave them money,

painted their portraits and preferred being close to their basic tastes and understanding. In spite of himself,
Cézanne had become a living legend by the turn of the century. Van Gogh had the rare good fortune to bump

into Cézanne one day and eagerly solicited Cézanne's opinion of his work. After he had inspected them all

Cézanne said, "Truly, you paint like a madman!"

Cézanne became involved with Hortense Fiquet, a 19-year-old model from the Jura Mountains when he was

30. A son, Paul, was born in 1872. Cézanne did not marry Hortense until just before his father's death in 1886.

The couple lived more often apart than together as she preferred Paris and Cézanne preferred Aix.

Cézanne fell passionately in love with a woman only once, during 1885. The identity of the woman remains

mysterious, although one biographer believes she was a servant named Fanny at Jas de Bouffan, the Aix

family home. Cézanne lived at Jas de Bouffan with his sister and ailing mother until her death in 1897.

After painting outdoors in a fierce thunderstorm he fell gravely ill. Cézanne died on 10/22/1906, Aix-en-

Provence, France. Hortense and Paul, alerted in advance, did not arrive in time because Mme. Cézanne

refused to reschedule a dressmaker's appointment. One year later in the Grand Palais the Salon d'Automne

honored Cézanne with two rooms dedicated to his work. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke attended the exhibit.

Enraptured with his work, he wrote "this old man…using up his love in anonymous labor, creating such purified

works," probably captured the essence of Cézanne's life and work.

Link to Wikipedia biography