French Icon: Paul Cézanne

French Icon: Paul Cézanne

Born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839, famed artist Cézanne was close friends with Émile Zola and he spent much of his time divided between Paris and Provence…

Paul Cézanne’s innovative work during the second half of the 19th century is considered a foundation for the radical changes that developed in the art world of the 20th century. Picasso is quoted as having said that “Cézanne was the father of all of us.”

Born to a wealthy father, Cézanne was friends with writer Émile Zola at school. To his father’s disappointment, he left university to become an artist and he would often paint landscapes, portraits and still-life studies of fruit.

The paintings were rather dark and moody, with daubs of browns and blacks adding to the sombre effect of the compositions. Later he would develop a lighter technique with brighter colours, inspired both by his new environs near the Mediterranean and fellow artist Camille Pissarro’s encouragement.

Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence is now open to the public and from its vantage point perched atop a hill, you can appreciate how the big bright windows and peaceful surroundings inspired him in his later years. However, isolated from his friends and family, and struggling with depression, Cézanne passed away in his home in Aix having contracted pneumonia in 1906.

He often painted views of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire in its changing light, and in November 2022 a version of his painting ‘La Montagne Sainte-Victoire’ sold at auction at Christie’s in New York for $138m, a new record for the artist’s work.

Looking for more like this?

Why not follow the footsteps of artist Henri Matisse in and around Nice, or those of Van Gogh and Picasso who marvelled at the impressive Roman monuments in the charming city of Arles in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur


Lead photo credit : Mont St Victoire - Cezanne

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