“Picasso developed Cézanne’s planar compositions into cubism, and Matisse greatly admired his use of color. He used color with passion and creativity, giving his brush strokes structure, solidity, durability. Pablo Picasso said the following of the artist “My one and only master . . . Cézanne was like the father of us all”. Cézanne is therefore often described as the “father of modern art”. Unfortunately, Cézanne was the ultimate outsider and misunderstood during most of his life. Success came little and late, although young promising painters came to visit him during his last years.”…
Who might have guessed,over a hundred years ago, that an apple painted by an obscure madman named Cezanne ( 1839-1906 )was destined to have more influence over the course of modern painting than all the established canons of nineteenth-century art put together? Not even Cezanne’s few staunch admirer’s could have dreamed up so sweeping a claim. The only person who might have foreseen this, in fact, was the artist himself; for Cezanne’s massive sense of frustration and failure was occasionally alleviated by extraordinary insights into the importance of his discoveries.
However on approaches Cezanne, one comes up against a paradox. His life was beset with difficulties, many of his own making, that forced him to withdraw into an embittered, mistrustful seclusion. And yet his paintings open out completely onto the life around him. No one who knows his landscapes or his still lives can look at the countryside around Aix-en-Provence or fruit on a crumpled tablecloth in quite the same way again. And although his paintings were achieved only after immense labor and discouragement, they instantly take one further into the fiber of things, changing one,s vision of the commonplace.
The warring elements in Cezanne,s makeup caused him inordinate suffering. He was a vulnerable lan who often admitted to being unequal to life’s struggles. Yet in a flash he could turn into a snarling fury if he suspected people were plotting to get him, as he used to say, “into their clutches.” What sustained him was an iron determination and a fierce sense of pride, a will to survive against all odds. After decades of seeing his work ridiculed he could still say, “There is only one living painter-myself.”
Certainly, it was also paradoxical that Paul Cezanne should ever have decided to have become a painter. He was born in the slumbering provincial town of Aix, the son of a self-made man whose authority he continued to recognize, and fear, even when he was well into his forties. His father, Louis-Auguste Cezanne, had begun as a hatter’s apprentice and made a considerable fortune, first in the hat trade, then in banking. Paul went to the city’s College Bourbon, and here his long and formative friendship with Emile Zola took root. Unlike Zola, who was convinced of his vocation as a writer and had plunged into life in Paris, albeit with no literary success, Cezanne wavered. His father wanted him to become an outstanding lawyer or his successor in the family bank; parental opinion weighed heavily on him, and so Paul compromised by staying in Aix to study law, meanwhile taking lessons at the local drawing academy.
But Louis-Auguste, stern and unimaginative as he must have been, was also shrewd: once paul had spent a couple of years as a reluctant law student, Louis-Auguste realized that his son must be allowed to follow his natural inclination toward art. Eventually paul gained his father’s permission to study in paris and, in 1861, left to join his friend Zola.
Few artists have made such a hesitant start on what was to become an exclusive passion. During this first stay in paris Cezanne felt desperately ill at ease. He swung between furious bouts of work and pe
s of utter dejection. Even Zola, who had given him so much encouragement , began to despair of him: ” Paul may have the genius of a great painter,” he wrote,”but he will never have the genius to become one.” The two young men were poles apart in their attitudes toward life, as time in fact would force them to realize, and the closest relationship Cezanne ever had eventually broke up.
Zola, a man brimming over with ambition, thrived on the great bustle of the metropolis; a needy, fatherless childhood had accustomed him to accept hardship. Cezanne, on the other hand, habitually retreated at the first sign of conflict, or even contact, with others. Yet curiously, his self-doubt and social discomfort were partly the result of an obstinacy that probably outstripped Zola’s determination to succeed; one wonders whether the novelist could ever have survived the same lifelong neglect the painter was to suffer.
Cezanne returned to Aix to work half-heartedly in the family bank, but after a year he was back in Paris again. He tried to get into the Ecole des beaux-Arts; no doubt to please his father, for he had already voiced his scorn for official art and its institutions. But, having been refused, he continued to work instead at the Atelier Suisse, a studio on the Ile de la Cité.
Along with imaginary sexual evocations, such as “The Rape” ( 1867 ) , Cezanne painted several strongly executed portraits in the 1860′s. In a self-portrait painted around 1866, the volumes of his fierce, bearded head have been built up with a palette knife in thick wedges. To uor eyes, the power of this picture is undenaible. It has a density to it, and a corresponding awkwardness, that testifies to an overriding desire to make paint speak a new language. So to, “Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cezanne Reading” attempts to break through the deadening mold of contemporary convention. Emphatic contrasts of dark against light, round forms against flat, persist, and the paint is still thickly applied, but there is new care for the overall compositional unity.
Louis-Auguste, august indeed in his skullcap, looks as though he had been sculpted out of his throne-like armchair. Cezanne came to denigrate this forceful technique once he had learned to suggest depth by means of subtler contrasts. “It took me forty years to find out that painting is not sculpture,” he later remarked to renoir. But we ourselves cannot regret the vigor of the portrait that perfectly conveys the authoritarianism of the father. Notice , for instance, the crushing power of the parental hand.
“We can see this “explosive” trend in Cézanne’s first compositions of women: scenes incorporating poses that depicted both sensuality and brutality, concomitant with attempts to dominate women’s sexuality, which Cézanne seemed to have used to express his inner emotional distress. According to Murphy in The World of Cézanne, Cézanne was “alternatively plagued by fits of anger and depression, his imagination fired by morbid fantasies of violence and eroticism, [and] he sought expression for his troubled feelings in painting” . For Murphy, Cézanne’s art work apparently provided an outlet for his pent-up turbulent emotions and it was such “expression” that spiraled into scenes of blatant sexuality. Further, Cézanne’s attempt to control this sensuality can be gleaned through his paintings illustrating abduction, stabbing, raping, or forceful pursuit of women.”
“Exaggerated erotic and striking poses of nude females and Cézanne’s attempt to control feminine sensuality are further portrayed in The Temptation of St. Anthony (1875-1877) and in The Eternal Feminine (1877). Thus, this series of “dark paintings” completed before 1880 illustrates that Cézanne perceived women as “capable only of seduction and submission, of leading one astray and accepting well-deserved punishment,” as Cachin notes, with the sensual positioning of nude females (Cachin 102). For Cachin, Cézanne’s early compositions are clearly a product of a frenetic imagination stimulated by his overwhelming violent and sexual impulses. It is these impulses that generate poses of such “seduction and submission” that reflect Cézanne’s repressed sensuality and motivate him to gain control over women’s threatening sexuality.”
A real riddle, though, is whether Cézanne’s projection of repressed sexuality into these early paintings along with his effort to constrain women’s sexuality through the use of pose ends here; whether the ostensibly basic change in his artwork around 1880 when he began posing nude females in a more relaxed and happy manner in his paintings, was a quantum departure from these blatantly violent and unsettling poses. Its really very ambiguous whether the antagonism and despondency in his earlier works was transformed in his later bather pictures as blissful, peaceful, and harmonious fusions of female figures and nature; or whether the assertion of serenity by comparison with the early works is simply a sublimation of the almost pathological obsession. Thus, the later bather compositions may not actually capture the harmony between nature and nude female poses devoid of any erotic connotations despite their plump and grotesqueness.
Yet is this all true? Actually, an examination of Cézanne’s later paintings of nude female bathers may not reveal that the expression of his repressed sexuality did not end with his “dark paintings,” and Cézanne’s continued effort to gain control over women’s sexuality in the bather paintings and his restraint of such sensuality through his posing of the bathers. Moreover, his bather paintings likely and plausibly continued to reflect his extreme difficulty with women since none of Cézanne’s depictions of females bathers were based upon the poses of real nude models: Cézanne remained unable to cope with the presence of nude women who still terrified him . Instead, Cézanne had to rely upon some of his very early drawings from art school classes, where he apparently had been forced to draw from real models, or from his sketches of paintings that he made during his frequent trips to the Louvre as the foundation for his nude bathers.