Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) painted in various styles. Some were radical departures from traditional landscape painting, and some were more traditional. Despite this versatility, his work was not always understood and appreciated during his lifetime.
Nowadays, most art historians agree that his works greatly influenced 20th-century abstract art. In addition, many art historians and scholars agree that painter Cezanne’s artworks formed the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and new artistic movements, such as Cubism and Fauvism. His unique style and color development earned him the stature of a leading post-impressionist artist whose signature style is still copied by contemporary painters today.
Artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were also greatly influenced by Cézanne. What perhaps is not so well-known is that his devotion to his work cost him his life. In this article, we’ll look at this post-Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne’s life, his works, and some interesting aspects about him before we look at how he died.
A Sneek Peek at the Early Life of Paul Cezanne
Famous painter Paul Cézanne was born in 1839 in Aix, France. His father was a wealthy banker, which allowed him to spend much time studying art and traveling through Europe. His father’s wealth and large inheritance gave him financial security. Although he was never really dependent on the income from his art, he was devastated when his works didn’t sell.
Cézanne began to study and learn painting and drawing at the “École des Beaux-Arts” in Aix in 1856. However, his father persuaded him to enter law school. Although Cezanne continued his law studies, he was simultaneously enrolled at the “École des Beaux-Arts,” where he continued pursuing his passion for art school until 1861.
Afterward, he went to Paris and studied at the “Académie Suisse.” But soon, he realized he was not inspired and returned home to Aix-en-Provence. Then, after months of working in his father’s business, he returned to Paris in 1862 and stayed there for 18 months.
In Paris, he met Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro and became acquainted with their revolutionary works. But Cézanne was always a loner and periodically returned to Aix where he could work in relative isolation.
Cezanne’s Peculiar Works in the 1860s and 1870s
Although many of his best-famed paintings were created in the 1860s and 1870s, Paul Cezanne’s drawings from this era can be described as “peculiar.” This collection includes fantasies, dreams, religious images, and a preoccupation with the macabre. Moreover, he often depicted conspiracies and deceptions, which were reflections of his inner conflicts.
For many art critics and scholars, each of the best of Paul Cezanne’s drawings and paintings from this period seems to be the conception of an artist who is either a madman or a genius.
Paul Cezanne’s Life Between 1872 and the Early 1880s
In the year 1872, Cézanne moved to Pontoise, France. It was there where he spent two years with the artist Pissarro, and he became convinced that one must paint directly from nature. As a result, the romantic and religious subjects began to disappear from his canvases. Instead, he painted many countryside scenes, including still lifes and portraits.
In 1874 Cezanne decided to participate in the first exhibition of the “Société Anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc.” This exhibition was organized by radical artists who the official Salons had persistently rejected. This marked the beginning of “Impressionism.”
After 1877, Cézanne started to isolate himself from the Impressionistic artists and developed his style and techniques that fitted in with the post-Impressionists. This can be seen primarily in his paintings, where he used bold brush strokes to create a flat and perspective-less appearance.
Cezanne from the 1880s until the early 1900s
During the 1880s, Cézanne saw fewer and fewer of his friends, and personal events affected him deeply. In 1886 he married the model Hortense Fiquet, with whom he’d lived for 17 years. His father died that same year.
An essential event for Cezanne in 1886 was the publication of his friend Zola’s novel “L’Oeuvre.” The story’s main character was depicted as a painter whose work was not widely appreciated. The artist took this personally and felt that his friend saw him as a failure.
In 1895, due to the urging of Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir, the art dealer Ambroise Vollard exhibited several of Cézanne’s paintings. As a result, public interest in Cézanne’s work slowly began to emerge. He sent drawings and paintings to the annual “Salon des Indépendants” in Paris in 1899, 1901, and 1902, and in 1904 he was given an entire room at the Salon d’Automne.
Paul Cezanne’s Death
One day in October 1906, Cézanne was working on an artwork in the lap of nature. As it happened, he got caught up in a storm while working in the field, But it is believed that he was so devoted to his creation that he didn’t want to stop in between.
After a long day of work, post-impressionist artist Paul Cezanne felt exhausted and decided to leave. On his way back home, he collapsed alongside the road! Fortunately, a passerby saw him and helped him return home. His old housekeeper rubbed his arms and legs to restore the circulation, and after a while, he regained consciousness.
Right before his death, the famous painter Cezanne worked on a painting in his studio. As he painted, he constantly fainted. His model called for help and put him to bed. However, he never left his bed again and died a few days later, on 22 October 1906, at 67. The reason for his death was diagnosed as pneumonia. He was buried at the Saint-Pierre Cemetery in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence.
Paul Cezanne, one of the most radical artists of his day, was a loner who preferred to paint alone in his studio. Although he left behind hundreds of sketchbooks and drawings, his oil paintings are less known today because he destroyed many of them after they were judged unworthy.
But as the circumstances of his death illustrated, he was a very devoted painter. Moreover, his works laid the foundation for future art movements like fauvism.