Every now and then there comes along a person with "a sensibility higher than our own who can depict an apple to stand for both that particular apple and all apples" -- at least that's how one expert put it. The... [more]
Every now and then there comes along a person with "a sensibility higher than our own who can depict an apple to stand for both that particular apple and all apples" -- at least that's how one expert put it.
The applemaster referred to was Paul Cezanne, one of the most famous of the French Impressionists. He was a contemporary of Seurat, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, but probably the least crazy of the bunch. Cezanne, started out as a lawyer (pressured by his banker-father to get a "real" job), but the burning desire to be an artist won out.
At age 22, he set off for Paris to join friend and writer Emile Zola in setting the art world on fire. It didn't happen at first. As one reviewer of the time wrote, "People stand in front of Cezanne's pictures in order to have a good laugh." But his devotion to his craft and vision persevered, and he had the last laugh by producing one of the most enduring, resonant bodies of work of the entire period.
Widely regarded as the most innovative artist of the nineteenth century, Cezanne could be described as an "Abstractionist before his time." He rendered everything with careful mixtures of architectonic blocks and patches of vivid, surprising color; he also broke new ground in composition and shading. Perfecting this method, he masterfully represented light, color, form, and mass from subject to subject, whether it be a still life, a landscape, or a portrait. As renowned art historian Meyer Schapiro gushed, "Color, drawing, modeling, structure, touch, and expression...are carried to a new height in his work...his uninterpreted strokes [make] us see that there can be qualities of greatness in little touches of paint."
Cezanne was an obsessive realist in the true sense of the word, admittedly unable to paint something if it wasn't really there (which is why there are no angels in his work). He once said, "Don't you see that if I put something there by guesswork, I might have to paint the whole canvas over starting at that point?" So, his subjects had to sit still for quite awhile. He demanded they remain frozen in their poses for hours at a stretch, telling them to act "like an apple."
Finally, funded by a large inheritance from his father and disillusioned by rejections from art-academy types, he left Paris and moved with his wife and son back to his native home, Aix-en-Provence, where he painted prolifically in solitude, obsessed with the effort to "realize" objects in paint, until his death at 67. [show less]