Known as the Father of Modern Art, Paul Cézanne was a post-Impressionist artist who paved the way for Cubism, Fauvism and 20th century abstract art. Today his legacy enjoys great renown but he was actually one exhibition away from never becoming famous at all! On his birthday, KAZoART looks at the life and career of an artist who was no stranger to criticism but knew an even greater success!

When Cézanne inspires KAZoART artists

3 Things to know about Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne, Self portrait in a White Turban (1882)

1. Law school drop-out

Paul Cézanne was born in 1839 in Aix-en-Provence into a relatively well-off family. As a teenager he attended the same school as Emilie Zola, with whom he became friends. The young Cézanne later enrolled in drawing classes, for which he had much enthusiasm. This enthusiasm, however, was not shared by all

With a literature degree under his belt, he then turned to law school to honour his father’s wishes and to meet his expectations. But in his heart, he wanted to be an artist. Not long thereafter, he abandoned his parents’s plan for his life and quit law school. Chasing his passion, he began a career as an artist. But things didn’t exactly go as planned.

2. Paul Cézanne: the reject

Cézanne, The Blue Vase (1887)

In 1860 Cézanne leaves to study painting in Paris. But things got off to a rocky start. After suffering many refusals and rejections, he eventually returned to Aix-en-Provence. A few years later and with a bit more experience under his belt he was more determined than ever to once again try his luck in the capital. It was during this second attempt that he met two Impressionist artists you might have heard of: Monet and Renoir.

At this time, Cézanne completed his first painting that would be presented to the public. He preferred still life over all other variations. Despite his recently-made connections and experience, he was turned down for a place in the Paris Salon de Peinture. What’s more, during his showing at the Impressionist Exhibition, his paintings became scandalous. He was thus marked as “clumsy” and some critics even went so far to say that his work was like that of a “restless madman suffering delirium tremens.”

Cézanne, The Card Players(1895)

Given the fact that today his paintings are some of the most expensive in the world, it is odd to think that he could have been so easily discouraged. But, such was the case. From this point on, Cézanne ceased all activity in the Impressionist movement.

3. Fascinated by Montagne Sainte-Victoire

After distancing himself from his friends in the capital, and from the city life itself, he spent most of his time in Provence. Alongside his portraits, still lifes and nudes, the Sainte-Victoire mountain remained his flagship subject.

Cézanne, Mount Sainte-Victoire (1904)

It wasn’t until Ambroise Vollard, a young art dealer, organised an 1895 exhibition that Cézanne’s paintings were appreciated. More than a hundred Impressionist works were exhibited and Cézanne was part of it. This was a major turning point in his career. His painterly strokes were at last appreciated and he became a source of inspiration.

Pictured in more than 80 of his works, the Sainte-Victoire mountain is located just east of Aix-en-Provence. While painting it on October 15, 1906 a storm broke out. Not able to find cover in time, he was drenched by the rain and later had a high fever. A week later, he died of pneumonia.

One day he said

A work that did not begin with emotion is not art.

Paul Cézanne

His greatest works

Paul Cézanne, The Sainte-Victoire Mountain (1897)
Cézanne, The Basket of Potatoes (vers 1893)
Cézanne, The Large Bathers (1898)
Paul Cézanne, Pyramid of Skulls (1900)
Cézanne, A modern Olympia (1874)
Paul Cézanne, Boy in the Red Vest (1889)

When Cézanne inspires KAZoART artists