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Paul Cezannne: 1839 - 1906

By age and by association, Cezanne was one of the impressionists. He was five years younger than Degas, a year older than Monet, two years older than Renoir. He was a solitary man, but insofar as he had friends at all, he found them among his impressionist contemporaries. He exhibited in the first and third group shows, and when he was in Paris he frequented the Cafe Guerbois during the days when it was an impressionist center. (By 1877 the Guerbois had lost its importance as an impressionist meeting place, and the Cafe de la Nouvelle Athenes partially replaced it. The Nouvelle Athenes, however, became a center for literary intellectuals with only a scattering of painters).

When Cezanne died at sixty-seven, Monet, Renoir, and Degas were still working. Yet by the time Renoir was setting himself to the task of painting The Bathers, and Seurat's La Grande Jette, Cezanne had already developed a way of painting as solid as Renoir's was ever to be, and more revolutionary than Seurat's. He said that he "wanted to make of impressionism something solid and durable like the art of the museums." It is a statement of intention that would have been appropriate from either Renoir or Seurat, but Cezanne's solution of the problem was so revolutionary that it takes him out of the impressionist generation except in the strictest chronological sense.

Cezanne was the most revolutionary painter since the dawn of the Renaissance, which is what the critic Clive Bell meant in 1920 when he said, "If the greatest name in European painting is not Cezanne, it is Giotto." Cezanne recognized something of the same kind when he said, "I am the primitive of the way I have discovered." Together these two statements mean that European art was given a new direction in the early fourteenth century when a painter named Giotto di Bondone abandoned stylized medieval formulas of representation and turned to nature as his model; that for nearly 600 years painters followed this direction, varying and perfecting Giotto's innovation, until Cezanne appeared and gave the first redirection since Giotto; and that like Giotto's achievement, Cezanne is only a beginning, which will be varied and perfected by many generations of painters who will follow him.

Additional Exhibits for Paul Cezanne
Cezanne: The Student Fame at Last
Cezanne: The Impressionist Pity Poor Paul Cezanne (by John Sheridan)
Cezanne: Realization Pierre's' Review: Victor Chocquet Seated
Cezanne: Fulfillment

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