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Paul Cezanne: The Impressionist

Cezanne's impressionist period runs from 1872 to 1877. By 1878 he had discovered what Renoir was to discover five years later; he was the first impressionist to turn away from transient effects in landscape, if indeed he can be said ever to have accepted them. His great link with impressionism was Pissarro, who himself kept a fairly tight rein on impressionism's tendency to dissolve form into tinted veils. Later Cezanne objected even to Pissarro's impressionism, saying that if he, Pissarro, had kept on as he had started, he would have been the greatest of them all. But Cezanne felt that, instead, Pissarro had succumbed to the common failing.

The two men worked side by side at Auvers, where Cezanne painted The House of the Hanged Man, which has become the standard example of his impressionist period. It was exhibited in the first group show, to which Cezanne was admitted upon Pissarro's insistence over general objections. Manet even gave as a reason for not exhibiting that he could not afford to commit himself alongside Cezanne, who was thought of as a little freakish even by those other members who sensed his strength. And Cezanne gave them plenty of reason for feeling so. He was rough in manner, sometimes surly, always unsure of himself, and defensively contemptuous of fine manners.

When the impressionist exhibition opened, Cezanne's pictures were the most ferociously attacked of all. (It goes without saying that all this time, and for a long time after, Cezanne was regularly rejected from the Salon.) Yet, as an impressionist painting, The House of the Hanged Man is much more concerned with formal definition, much less with light effects, than the average.

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