Paul Cézanne was born on 19 January 1839, in Aix-en-Provence, France. While in school, he enrolled in the free-drawing academy in Aix, which he attended intermittently for several years. In 1858 he graduated from the Collège Bourbon, also in Aix, where he had become a close friend of fellow student Émile Zola. Cézanne entered the law school of the University of Aix in 1859 at his father’s behest but abandoned his studies to join Zola in Paris in 1861. For the next twenty years Cézanne divided his time between the Midi and Paris.


Whilst in the capital, Cézanne briefly attended the Académie Suisse with Camille Pissarro, whose art later came to influence his own. He would also become close with Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, meeting both in 1962, as well as developing friendships with Édouard Manet, James McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas and Henri Fantin-Latour over the coming decade. In Paris, Cézanne would frequent the Salon, and spent time copying from the Old Masters in the Louvre. He developed a style characterised by dense swathes of paint applied with a palette knife, a technique appropriated from the realist master Gustave Courbet. His paintings were included in the 1863 Salon des Refusés, which displayed works not accepted by the jury of the official Paris Salon. The Salon itself rejected Cézanne’s submissions each year from 1864 to 1869.


In 1869, Cézanne met Émilie Hortense Ficquet, who would eventually become his wife in 1886. Following the declaration of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Cézanne left Paris for Aix-en-Provence and nearby L’Estaque, before arriving in Auvers in 1872, where he developed an affinity for painting en plein air as he worked alongside Pissarro. Cézanne’s style changed, now placing more emphasis on the rendering of light in nature, working with a lighter palette and looser brushwork. He participated in the first and third Impressionist exhibitions in 1874 and 1877. From 1876 to 1879 his works were again rejected by the Salon, and it was only in 1882 that the Salon eventually accepted his work – the first and only time. At that time, Georges Rivière was one of the few critics to support his art.


From the mid-1880s until Cézanne’s first solo exhibition, organised by Ambroise Vollard in Paris (1895), his style matured into the solid, hatched brush-strokes synonymous with the artist. It was during this period that Cézanne painted many of his most recognised subjects: landscapes around Pontoise and Provence; Mont Sainte-Victoire; Bibémus quarry; as well as still-lifes, portraits and self-portraits. In 1886, the publishing of Zola’s L’Oeuvre, which portrayed the artist in an unflattering light, precipitated the end of their long friendship. In 1894 he travelled to Giverny to visit Monet, who introduced him to Auguste Rodin and the critic Gustave Geffroy. Following his exhibition in 1895 with Vollard, he received increasing recognition, and in 1899 he participated in the Salon des Indépendants in Paris for the first time. The following year he took part in the Centennial Exhibition in Paris. In 1903, the Berlin and Vienna Secessions included Cézanne’s work, and he exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1904. Cézanne’s last great achievement was his serial paintings of bathers, a recurring subject throughout his life, which culminated in three particularly large canvases completed c. 1905-1906 (National Gallery, London; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia). He died on 22 October 1906, in Aix-en-Provence.


Cézanne’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Neue Pinakothek, Munich; Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna; the Albertina, Vienna; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Louvre, Paris; the National Gallery, London; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; the Tate Collection, London.


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