Six Reasons to Praise Paul Cézanne as ‘The Greatest of Us All’ | Paul Cézanne

sOl Cézanne, born in 1839, who painted quietly until his death in 1906, is the unparalleled contemporary artist, whom Claude Monet called “the greatest of us all.” The most glaring evidence of this is how many of his successors felt the need to move forward on his patch — literally. When Picasso told his dealer Ambroise Vollard that he had just bought “Mount Cézanne,” Vollard thought he was referring to one of his paintings from Mont Saint Victoire. In fact, Picasso bought a property on his slopes in the south of France.

Self-Portrait of Paul Cézanne.  It dates back to the nineteenth century.
Self-Portrait of Paul Cézanne. Photo: World History Archives/Global Photo Collection/Getty

abstract painter Sean Scully And his family now also “live in fact near Mont-Saint-Victoire, in Aix-en-Provence”. For Scully, the mountain “stands like a silent sentinel that we see every day. It is enormous but very subtle in the way it absorbs the light of time and season.”

Enormous, but very delicate – the same can be said of Cézanne’s towering presence in the history of modern art. Scully is a twenty-first century artist who paints in the tradition of Cézanne who found abstraction in nature, with long, curly lines reminiscent of plowed fields.

But he is by no means the only artist who still looks at Cézanne, 80 of his paintings are on display this week in big gallery At Tate Modern. In the catalog are a selection of contemporary artists from the Turner winner Lubina Hamid for belgian painter Luke Tewmans Share their likes. Cézanne defined what modern art was before anyone knew it existed, inspiring the likes of Picasso, Georges Braque, Matisse, and Jasper Johns (a lender to show).

Here are the six reasons why Cézanne is so impressed:


For 500 years, Western artists have envisioned the world stretching away in perspective, until Cézanne turned his table up and pushed it in your face. His paintings consist of parallel color planes, which can look like a traditional perspective “view” from a distance, but turn out to be a flat arrangement up close. This was a bombshell in the heads of Picasso and Braque who, from about 1908, experimented with Cézanne’s collapse of inner space to produce Cubism. In cubist painting, Cézanne’s planes get more mashed up to make you see that reality isn’t an image at all, it’s a mess we pretend to understand.

Silent fruit bowl, 1879-80.
Silent fruit bowl, 1879-80. Photo:


Cézanne changed the relationship of art to the physical world. Before he painted his apples, artists tried to take a general picture of reality where everything is part of a larger picture. But Cézanne dwells like a fetishist of individual things with a mental fist. This turns the old kind of still life into something more fragmented and brutal. This led within a few years of his death to Marcel Duchamp’s invention of the “ready”, asserting that the artist did not have to paint or sculpt but could simply “choose” something, just as Cézanne chose his own fruit pieces.


Picasso revolutionized art when he turned faces into masks – but he got this idea from Cézanne who swimmers It has faces that look like they are carved out of wood. Cézanne considered them masks, perhaps because he was socially distant: even his wife appears to be confined to a porcelain Japanese mask in his portraits. As you see his self-portraits themselves from the outside; He was a stranger to himself. This feeling of alienation may be his biggest modern idea. She helped shape not only art but literature and philosophy in the twentieth century in the sense of the isolated, vulnerable, and unstable self.

Bathers circa 1894-1905.
Turn faces into masks: Swimmers circa 1894-1905. Photo: Tate


Cézanne was the godfather of modernity from 1910 to the 1950s, but when he gave way to postmodernism, he seemed to become a distant ancestor. However, it is surprising how much his cracked view of reality predicted the advent of television and the digital age of pixelated images, bytes of information, and flickering screens. digital artist Cory Archangel and pop artist Richard Hamilton They are among those who have applied a vision similar to that of Cézanne to today’s media. But our entire fragmented information world already exists in Cézanne 1902-6 Mont Saint Victoire painting From the Philadelphia Museum of Art with its shattered bits of information pulsing through an electric sky as dense and complex as our lives.


Cézanne is the artist’s artist, in the same way as Einstein, who published special theory of relativity When Cézanne was still painting in 1905, he was a physicist: Cézanne took art into a relative universe of uncertainty as he painted Mont-Saint-Victoire over and over, seeing it in radically different ways, because even something as solid as a mountain is impossible to know completely or finally. Monet, who lived after him, imitated this in his country Nympheas.

A seated man by Paul Cézanne, 1905-06
A Seated Man by Cézanne, 1905-06. Photo: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid


Cézanne challenges writers to find words for his absolute identity. He went to school in Aix with novelist Zola, who would go on to portray the unsuccessful—and unstable—young Cézanne. Masterpiece. When the real Cézanne finally gained fame, Roger Fry, Robert Hughes, the poet Rilke and more wrote of him as the god of modern art—all rising to the impossible and irresistible challenge of putting those apples into words. Art historian TJ Clark says in his new book: If these apples fall that after many attempts, “Cézanne can no longer be written” – but he did so in a book that shows how this great artist still blows minds.

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