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Paul Cezanne: Fulfillment

In the final period, the twenty years from 1886 until his death, Cezanne pushed toward a conclusion, generally in the direction of increased abstraction. In the last decade of his life, Cezanne began to be well known. By 1900, except in the usual backwater of academic intelligence, his power and the importance
of his revolution were recognized beyond the specialized circle of a very few dealers, painters, and critics. In 1895 the dealer Ambroise Vollard exhibited a large number of Cezanne's paintings, reintroducing him to Paris after a lapse of nearly twenty years. Vollard was only thirty years old at this time and had opened his firm only two years before. Not very certain of his own taste, he wisely accepted advise from good sources, especially from Pissarro and Degas. Pissarro, always Cezanne's good angel, brought him to Vollard's attention. It was the beginning of Vollard's career as a dealer in avant-garde painting, and Cezanne painted his portrait in 1899. The public was appalled by the 1895 exhibition, the conservative painters and critics were outraged, but Cezanne was immediately established as a master in the minds of the former impressionists and among the canny collectors who were beginning to gather around adventurous dealers. It did not take long for the baying of the academic hounds to recede into the
distance as a meaningless racket. Within a few years, independent critics had become at least as influential as official ones, and exhibitions held by independent dealers were even more influential than the official Salon as arbiters of taste - finally to the point of abusing their prestige, in some cases, as badly as the Salon had ever done. And the Salon, considerably chastened, liberalized its standards to meet the competition of the more exciting exhibits that had grown up all around it.

Cezanne died in 1906, at sixty-seven, after a collapse brought on by exposure when he was caught in a sudden storm while painting out of doors. In the autumn Salon of 1907 he was given a large retrospective. As a summary of a painter's development, a retrospective exhibition is associated with the idea of a winding up, a completion, a capping-off, a termination. In Cezanne's case it is impossible to make this association. His retrospective was not the terminal point of a career so much as it was a summery of a new concept of form in painting that had been brought, in the art of one man, from its genesis in impressionism to a point of departure for the generations of a new century.

Painting, Cezanne, year
 

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