Thus said Cézanne. Undoubtedly the desire to "make pictures" goes back to infancy. Not merely to the phase when the youngster tries his hand at drawing human figures, but to that earlier period of wholly "abstract" scrawls (like "doodling") which precedes any conscious imitation of reality. Due primarily to a purely physical desire for movement, it comes also of an urge to "make," to create something. And here we have an origin of Abstract Art which, when the time comes, we must not fail to consider.
French painter, born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839; died there in 1906. Cézanne's early work was Impressionistic, but in fact he had been born to destroy Impressionism. Cézanne came of a long line of artisans and small tradesmen of Piedmontese origin. His father was a rich Provençal, and Cézanne was never poor. He went to a primary school, then to a religious school, and was later sent to college by his father, who, by that time, had left his hatter's shop to become manager of a bank. Cézanne left college in 1858, with a sound education, his religious faith intact, and a close friendship with his fellow-student Émile Zola. Having done well at his studies, he entered a law school, in compliance with his father's wishes. This did not prevent him from carrying on with his drawing classes, which he had been attending since 1816. Hard-Working, conscientious, but sensitive and exuberant, he was not a very gifted pupil. He was short, thick-set, very dark, with an unprepossessing face, obstinate forehead, an aquiline nose, a keen glance and quick gestures. He enjoyed swimming, hunting, and long rambles through the countryside. He was fond of music, and played the cornet in the students' orchestra, in which Zola was a flautist. In 1859 his father acquired a seventeenth-century country house, the Jas de Bouffan, on the outskirts of Aix, and spent the summers there with his wife, his son and his two daughters. There Cézanne set up his first studio. He had already made up his mind about his future: despite his father, he was going to be a painter. His father, who intended that Paul should succeed him as head of the bank, admonished him in the following words: 'Think about your future, my boy. With genius you die; it is only with money that you live.' -- a 'bourgeois' conception of life that irritated Paul considerably, but in which he nevertheless acquiesced. He went on painting secretly, giving his legal studies only moderate attention. Émile Zola, who had settled in Paris, urged him to come and join him there. Cézanne's father opposed the idea. But in April 1861, realizing his son's unfitness for business, and under pressure from his wife and eldest daughter, Marie, he finally gave his reluctant consent. And so Paul Cézanne went to Paris. He took lodgings in the Rue des Feuillantines, studied at the Académic Suisse, became friends with Pissarro and, later, Guillaumin, and resumed his former intimacy with Zola. He was just about able to exist on the 125 francs which his father sent him each month. The tumult of Paris was not at all to his taste, and he was far from satisfied with the first works he produced. Eventually he was refused admission to the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, on the ground that he had 'the temperament of a colourist' and painted 'with excess'. Discouraged, he went back to Aix, to the great delight of his father, who offered him a position in the bank. But Paul, far from sacrificing the brush to finance, went on sketching and painting with ardour. He painted four large panels, The Four Seasons, on the walls of the Jas de Bouffan (today in the Petit Palais Museum in Paris), parodies that he irreverently signed 'Ingres' just for the fun of it. He painted a portrait of himself and one of his father. In November 1862 he went back to Paris. He associated with the Impressionists without, however, being carried away by them. He made the acquaintance of Monet, Degas and Renoir, but the works he admired most were those of Delacroix and Courbet. Cizanne's own work at that period was very romantic. It pleased him no more than it did anyone else. In fact, nothing pleased him, and he was ill at ease everywhere, breaking off a budding friendship, avoiding a famous artist whose work he liked, changing his lodgings constantly, leaving Paris in disgust and going back to it out of curiosity, retiring to Aix and then leaving it soon after. When his work was rejected by the Salon in 1866, he left for Aix, disgusted. He was back in Paris in the winter of 1867-68, in new lodgings, naturally. He put in brief appearances at the Café Guerbois, where he met Renoir, Manet, Stevens, Zola, Cladel, Duranty. . . . He never felt comfortable there. His Grog au Vin or Afternoon in Naples was rejected by the Salon in 1867. That same year he met Marie-Hortense Fiquet, a young model, whom he took with him to l'Estaque when he went there to hide in 1870, to escape the draft. After the war, he settled in Paris. He was thirtytwo years old. Until then he had indulged in a violent, sombre, and theatrical kind of painting, in which his sexual obsessions and distraught dreams figured. He painted landscapes, still lifes and portraits -- of Zola, Achille Emperaire, and Valabregue -- but also death scenes and orgies, weird, fantastic scenes with a thick impasto brutally applied, where sickly blues and livid whites slash the gloomy backgrounds. Tintoretto, Magnasco, Crespi, Goya, Daumier, all the great baroque painters, seem to preside over these lyrical effusions, these convulsed forms, these trite colours, over all the works that gave satisfaction to his turbulent nature. The Abduction, and The Temptation of Saint Anthony, The Negro Scipio, The Magdalene, or Grief and The Modern Olympia (the latter two in the Louvre) -these were the works that Manet condemned when he said to the Impressionist Guillemet: 'How can you like messy painting?'
In 1872 Hortense Fiquet bore him a son, to whom he gave his own name, Paul. He settled at Auvers-sur-Oise, where he lived for two years in the company of Pissarro and Guillaumin, who gave him advice and influenced his work. He abandoned his wild, lusty manner, his palette became lighter, his strokes gained in precision, and he employed simpler methods. The House of the Hanged Man ( Louvre) and Doctor Gachet's House (Kunstmuseum, Basel) mark this renewal, brought about as much by a prolonged contact with Impressionism as by a personal need of order. Cézanne made the acquaintance of Van Gogh. Doctor Gachct gave his encouragement, and some astute connoisseurs bought a few of his canvases. On his return to Paris he found the Impressionists once more, at the Nouvelle Athenes. He exhibited with them, although not very welcome, at the first Impressionist Salon at Nadar's in 1874, which was greeted with sarcasm and jibes. Cézanne naturally came in for his share, even more than his share. On the other hand, Count Doria bought his House of the Hanged Man, and a Government official, Victor Chocquet became his admirer, his confidant, and, on several occasions, his model. From 1874 to 1877, in a studio that he rented at 120 Rue de Vaugirard in Paris, he enjoyed a period of tranquillity and productivity. The Pool at the Jas de Bouffan still belongs to his Impressionist style, but his The Sea at l'Estaque, painted during the summer of 1876, is constructed according to the principles of a new classicism, an evolution confirmed by the opulent still lifes which followed, the various portraits of Madame Cézanne, and a series of Bathers. He gave up small brush-strokes and the division of tones, and painted in masses. He accentuated volumes, and sought unity of composition. His work gained in thought, firmness, and plastic intensity. But he was growing bitter, and found it increasingly difficult to tolerate the company of men and worldly vanities. Truly generous and kind by nature, everything -- no matter how trifling -- irritated him, and he suffered very much when his ingenuous pride came up against an obstacle. That is why the annual rejection of his canvases by the Salon, the raillery of the students at the École des Beaux-Arts, and the persistent incomprehension of the public, intensified his hypochondria. He sent sixteen canvases to the 1877 Impressionist exhibition. The reception was as hostile as in 1874. His father, who had never approved of his artistic career, nor of his liaison with Hortense Fiquet, reduced the already meagre allowance that he made him. That made Cézanne tend to isolate himself even more, to withdraw into himself. He exasperated his mistress with his unreasonableness, his friends with his caprices. Nevertheless, many of them remained devoted, among them the painter Guillemet, who succeeded in having one of Cézanne's pictures exhibited at the Salon of 1882. From then on he lived in Provence, leaving it only for essential trips to Paris, or when he was invited to La Roche-Guyon by Renoir in 1885, or to Hattenvilie in 1886 by Victor Chocquet.
In 1885 he made the acquaintance of Monticelli. The two artists wandered through Provence on foot, haversacks on their backs, painting side by side, preferably in Gardanne, a little village in the South of France quite close to Aix-enProvence. In 1884, in the presence of his parents, he married Hortense Fiquet, although he no longer had any feeling for her. Two years later his father died, at the age of almost ninety, leaving him two million francs, a considerable fortune in those days. Feeling only repugnance for human society, Cézanne devoted himself exclusively to painting. He had broken with Zola. His wife and his sister kept house for him and supervised his son's education. In 1888 he went to live in Paris for a year. He frequently met Van Gogh, Gauguin and Émile Bernard, although he did not care for them very much. He retired finally to Aix, leaving it only for brief trips to Fontainebleau, Giverny, Vichy or Paris. His irascibility increased with the first onset of diabetes. Without any serious reason, he quarrelled with several of his friends, particularly Claude Monet. He painted feverishly, but continued to have doubts about his work. Yet there never was so well-balanced and serene a period in his career as the ten years between 1885 and 1895. That was when he painted The Commode ( Munich), The Blue Vase ( Louvre) and Mardi Gras ( Moscow), the Portrait of Gustave Geffroy, the three versions of the Boy in the Red Vest, and the series of portraits of Madame Cézanne. He also painted five versions of the Cardplayers, the last of which is in the Louvre, and more than ten versions of Balhers, which he treated in the manner of a geometrical problem, striving to determine the laws that governed the composition of the picture. In landscapes his favourite themes at that time were the family property, Jas de Bouffan (he painted its avenue of chestnut trees several times), the village of Gardanne, the Gulf of Marseilles, as seen from l'Estaque (one version in the Louvre) and Mount Sainte-Victoire, notably the one with the big pine tree: in all, more than 250 canvases. His perseverance, if not his stubbornness, was beginning to bear fruit. This was not yet fame, but he was acquiring a reputation. One of his works was shown at the Exposition Universelle in 1889, thanks to the intervention of the faithful Chocquet. When the Théordore Duret collection was put on sale, Claude Monet bought Cézanne's Village Street for eight hundred francs, while the dealer Ambroise Vollard exhibited 150 of his works in his gallery in the Rue Laffitte. The Press was outraged and the public incensed. The academicians turned up to voice indignant protest, but Cézanne's reputation emerged from this experience considerably enhanced. A number of independent painters and new connoisseurs voiced their appreciation. Although he was isolated within the walls of his own mistrust, and overcome with grief at the death of his mother, his lyricism increased and his art glided towards the baroque. He decided never to go back to the Jas de Bouffan, and to sell it. He went to work at the Château Noir instead. He went to Paris for the last time in 1899, then returned to Aix, where he spent his last years, looked after by a devoted housekeeper, Madame Brémond. In 1902 he had a studio built in the Chemin des Lauves. Age, and the suffering his illness gave rise to, made him even more suspicious and irritable. In 1905 he completed his Grandes Baigneuses (now in the Philadelphia Museum), which he had begun seven years before. On the 15th of October, 1906, overtaken by a storm while out painting, he caught a chill and collapsed. He was brought home in a cart, and Madame Brémond hastily summoned his wife and son. They arrived too late. Cézanne died on the 22nd of October.
Despite the hostility of the public and of academic circles, Cézanne's fame had continued to grow. After Victor Chocquet's death, seven of Cézanne's canvases were sold for 17.600 francs. One of his landscapes was acquired for the Berlin Museum. He took part in the Exposition de la Libre Esthétique in Brussels in 1901, and in the Salon des Indépendants in 1899, 1909 and 1902. An entire room was reserved for him in the Salon d'Automne of 1904. He also exhibited in that Salon in 1905 and 1906. He had triumphed at last. He was accepted by the public, admired by the younger generation, and surrounded with sympathy and veneration. Painters, writers, poets came to Aix to pay homage. Nevertheless, Cézanne continued to live simply in morose and hard-working isolation, revolutionary artist and reactionary citizen; for the boldest precursor of modern art was, at the same time, the most conservative of French bourgeois. He used to go to Mass every Sunday, and scrupulously observe all the conventions of the bourgeois, conservative society to which he belonged. He had an unexpected respect for people with official standing and for State institutions. One of his lifelong desires was to be admitted to the very official Salon, already looked down upon by good painters, which kept its doors obstinately closed against him. He longed to be decorated, and the novelist Octave Mirbeau tried hard to get him the Legion of Honour, but in vain. Cézanne's reserve in matters of love was proverbial. His one sentimental venture was disappointing and abortive. In fact, women frightened him. Timidity, clumsiness and shyness formed impassable barriers to his passionate temperament, as both his correspondence and his early works bear testimony. Violent and timid, churlish and kind-hearted, reserved and generous, passionate and level-headed, fainthearted and proud, brimming over with affection yet distrustful of it in others, eager for honours yet indifferent to fame, small in his life yet sublime in his art, gnawed at by doubts about his work yet convinced of his superiority -such was Cézinne, the most balanced of painters and the most torn by contradictions; for, having repressed his instinct, he could feel it stirring tumultuously within him. There was a continuous struggle between the will to organize and the impulse to improvise, between the exigencies of a classical conscience and the pressure of a baroque temperament. Up to 1873 his southern impetuosity and erotic imagination, a fever of subversion and the naïveté of the self-taught, produced a pictoral licentiousness, the dangers of which Cézanne soon perceived. For a while, under the influence of the Impressionists, hoping to get rid of the waywardness of his youth, he tied himself down to a discipline, and subjected his imagination to the laws of Nature. Then begin his classical period. The secret of style was no longer to be found in the delicate play of light or the banal imitation of appearances, but in the severe ordering of forms and the right distribution of colours. In his still lifes, his portraits, his Cardplayers, and his views of l'Estaque or Gardanne, he resorted to an aesthetic system whose principles and appropriate means he discovered for himself; principles and means that issued from his need for perfection, his painful, groping search for in absolute. We have now to examine Cézanne's contribution to the art of painting, a contribution so rich and weighty that it has influenced the whole of modern painting, nourished all the movements that seek renewal, and inspired all the talent and genius of our century.
To understand properly the prodigious upheaval wrought by Cézanne (since, after him, a radical change occurred in the manner of seeing and in the manner of painting), he has to be seen in relation to the painting of his time. Although he is indebted to Pissarro for freeing him from the excessive romanticism of his youth, developing his gift of observation and his colour sense, nothing was more opposed to his ambition than the empiricist ideal of the Impressionists. He was a Realist as much as they were -- even more so, for he wanted to go beyond the 'simple sensation' and the immediate data of the senses. 'To make of Impressionism something as solid and durable as the paintings in the museums', he once said. By sheer will-power and meditation he rediscovered the innate freshness and vigour of sensation, the fundamental sensation that he wanted to make strong and permanent. He built a world whose form, construction and colour ensure permanence and universality. Although he was an ardent admirer of Poussin, Daumier, and Courbet, he wanted none of that form drowned in chiaroscuro and modelling. On the contrary, he disengaged it, encircled it, put it in evidence and accentuated its internal structure. He gave consistency even to air, mist, vapour, to the most volatile and least palpable things in the universe. The sky and sea in his landscapes have as much breadth and solidity as the trees, rocks and houses. 'Nature must be treated through the cylinder, the sphere, the cone', he said, as the Cubists were to repeat later. But reality has three dimensions. How can it be represented on a flat surface? This is where the organizer comes in. With a firm and careful hand, he ordered and combined in the space of the picture the cubes of his houses, the architectures of his trees, the concrete blocks which are his people, the spheres that are his fruits. Verticals and horizontals intersect at right angles to give an effect of magnitude, balance and serenity. Realizing that Nature is 'more depth than surface', he suggested the third dimension by arranging planes in an unexpected manner, by displacing the visual angles, by raising the horizon line (as in The Sea at l'Ertaque in the Louvre), without bothering about the rules of perspective as taught in the academics. But this tireless and exacting genius wanted to render Nature in its totality. How was he to express, at one and the same time, things and the air that envelops them, form and atmosphere, without resorting to the chiaroscuro of the classical painters, or the soft variegations and the shimmering glints of the Impressionists? Rejecting current conventions, Cézanne made a discovery which was to have a far-reaching effect on Western art: light and shadow no longer exist. From now on they are expressed with the aid of colours. Tone takes the place of modelling of form; the relationship of colours takes the place of chiaroscuro. He respects local tone. He substitutes pure tone, and contrasts of pure tone, for the mixture, gradations and modulations of colour. 'Model by the colours', said Antonello da Messina. This suggestion, taken up by the Venetians, has become a definite acquisition, thinks to Cézenne, who invented a pictorial light as different from natural light as a picture is from Nature itself. The difficulty lay in finding exact tones, and the exact interrelation of tones. This difficulty Cézanne triumphantly surmounted. In doing so, he arrived at a new interpretation of volume and drawing. Since form is created gradually by the brush as the artist works, it follows that drawing and painting cannot be distinct from each other. 'When colour has its richness, form his its plenitude', is his famous saying. From that time on the Impressionist division of tone began to give way to the juxtaposition of two opposite tones, the proximity of warm and cool. Each spot of paint becomes a coloured plane, a small, dense, rough-grained mass, placed there by a hand guided by reason, yet full of sensuality and flavour. Cézanne wanted to be a pointer to the exclusion of everything else. Nothing counted in his eyes except painting. 'Be a painter', he wrote to Émile Bernard, 'and not a writer or a philosopher.' Disdaining literary subjects, genre scenes and allegorical compositions, he preferred to paint common objects, familiar landscapes, and portraits of humble folk. He did not create his Bathers to glorify the splendours of the flesh, or to follow a fashion, but in order to seek new forms and new plastic rhythms. Passionately a painter, he made the picture a concrete and complete world, a reality which is an end in itself. From this it is easy to understand the profound influence he has exercised over the generation that followed him. He brought them a method, a perfect creation, the 'picture': that is to say, an architecture of tones and forms which is not an analysis of the passing moment, does not represent an anecdote or a chance incident, but is a coherent reality, indestructible and eternal. Cézanne never wanted to betray Nature. He found in himself the heritage of the old masters, which he took and enriched with his own discoveries, and exalted to the extreme limits to which his indomitable courage and genius could bring it. 'To do Poussin over again from nature. . . . To make of Impressionism something solid and durable like the art in the museums' -- that, in short, was his credo. His work is a lesson in energy. It gives us a profound sense of comfort, religious feeling, joy mingled with sadness. For beyond this robust and balanced art his suppressed instincts rumble, and the man groans, torn between the classicism he has so patiently sought and his latent baroque tendencies. Hence the rickety tables, the crooked vases, the tottering chairs, the stiff limbs, the squinteyed faces, the sloping postures, the forms that crumble when the vertical and horizontal break, the seeming awkwardness, the distortions that have for so long given Cézanne's hostile critics food for condemnation.
In the last ten years of his life the baroque invades his work without ever overstepping the limits laid down by a lifetime of conscientiousness and effort. He paints still lifes swaying on slippery supports, views of Mount SainteVictoire shaken by internal fires, trees which seem struck by lightning, Château Noir's flaming beneath stormy skies. Fauvism is already there, just as Expressionism was in the Temptation of St Anthony ( 1867), and Cubism in the Cardplayers. Who of the masters of modern in has not turned to him when in doubt and drawn comfort and inspiration from his example? Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, and many others have. 'We all start from Cézanne', Braque, Léger and Jacques Villon declared in 1953. On the other hand, the neo-classicists claim him as their model in so far as he remained faithful to the naturalist tradition. Precursor of pure painting, but also promoter of an intellectual adventure that still continues today, Cézanne is a valid source for the nonrealists as well as the realists. There is not a painter today who is not indebted to him. Destiny chose this torn creature with the anguished heart and confident mind to weave the threads of a new tradition. 'I am the primitive of the way I have discovered', he wrote one day, in the full consciousness of his originality. There have undoubtedly been other innovators who have had something to give the painters of today, but they are only predecessors. He is the ancestor, the father of modern painting.