HumanitiesWeb.org - Paul CÚzanne - The father of modern painting [Biography]
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Paul CÚzanne
Biography



"All my life I have worked to be able to earn my living, but I thought that one could do good painting without attracting attention to one's private life. Certainly, an artist wishes to raise himself intellectually as much as possible, but the man must remain obscure. The pleasure must be found in the work."
- letter to Joachim Gasquet, 30 April 1896

Born in southern France's Aix-en-Provence, CÚzanne was the only son of a self-made financier. At private school in Aix, CÚzanne met future novelist Emile Zola, who became a close friend. At the insistence of his domineering father, CÚzanne studied law from 1859 to 1861, though he continued attending drawing classes. His final decision to meet Zola in Paris in 1863 and become a painter caused much friction with his father, who wanted him to become a banker.

Once in Paris, CÚzanne came under the influence of the Impressionists and exhibited with them in their first show in 1874. His works in this exhibition drew particular scorn, because of their seemingly harsh and ugly colours and the rough paint surface, worked extensively with a palette knife.

As CÚzanne matured as an artist, he moved away from Impressionism, saying that he wished "to make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of the museums". In 1877 he returned to Provence and began his search to express visually the basic structure of the world.

CÚzanne's analysis of structure is especially evident in his still-lifes, which are revolutionary in their departure from previous examples of the type. In them there is very little attempt at verisimilitude in the usual sense. Instead, CÚzanne relentlessly examined the structure, texture, and colours of bottles, fruits (he used waxed fruits because real ones spoiled as he painted, studied, and then repainted them), and tablecloths, often the most alive element in his still-lifes. Traditional conventions of spatial representation, perspective, and colour have been abandoned and the still life has become a visual analysis translated into paint. To CÚzanne it really did not matter whether he was painting an apple or a man - the search for the underlying structure of form and colour was the same.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

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