The artistic career of Paul Cézanne spanned more than forty years, from roughly 1860 to 1906. A prolific artist, he produced more than 900 oil paintings and 400 watercolours, including many incomplete works.
Cézanne's work is broadly post-impressionist. His work helped the transition from the 19th century idea of art to the very different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne forms the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century Cubism. The line attributed to both Matisse and Picasso that "Cézanne is the father of us all" is significant.
Cézanne's work demonstrates a mastery of design, colour and composition. His brushstrokes are clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cézanne's intense study of his subjects, a searching gaze and a struggle to deal with the complexity of human visual perception.
Cézanne's The Card Players (1882) is at present the world's most expensive painting. It was sold for more than $250 million in 2011 to the royal family of Qatar. What makes this all the more remarkable is that there are four other Cézanne 'Card Players'. They are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation.
Cézanne the artist
In Paris, Cézanne met the Impressionist Camille Pissarro in the mid-1860s. Initially the friendship was that of master and disciple, with Pissarro exerting an influence on the younger artist. Over the course time their landscape painting excursions, in Louveciennes and Pontoise, led to a working relationship between equals.
Cézanne's early work is often concerned with the figure in the landscape, imaginatively painted. Later in his career, he became more interested in working from direct observation and gradually developed a light, airy painting style that was to influence the Impressionists enormously. In Cézanne's mature work we see the development of a solidified, almost architectural style of painting. He ordered whatever he saw into simple forms and colour planes. His statement "I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums", and his contention that he was re-creating Poussin "after nature" proved his desire to unite observation of nature with the permanence of classical composition.
Many of his paintings show people bathing, with the Montagne Sainte-Victoire in the background. These mountains are situated east of Aix-en-Provence. He also painted many still lifes, and portraits of his wife, with these mountains.
His colleagues included Pissarro, Monet and Renoir. Ambroise Vollard, an art critic with a gallery, was among the first people who bought Cézanne's artworks. In 1895, Vollard had the first exhibition showing Cézanne's works in his gallery, in Paris.
Cézanne's work influenced other artists, especially Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who started Cubism, as well as Henri Matisse. Paul Cézanne can also be seen as a post-impressionist, who contributed to modernism in painting. Paul Cézanne painted over 900 oil paintings and 400 watercolours, over 200 of them being still life paintings.
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