The 12 Most Famous Artworks of Paul Cézanne
This includes The Bathers, Basket of Apples, Mont Sainte-Victoire, The Card Players...
Paul Cézanne (19 January 1839 – 22 October 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century.
Cézanne is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. Cézanne’s often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cézanne’s intense study of his subjects. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all”.
niood lists the 12 Most Famous Artworks of Paul Cézanne:
Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, United States
With each version of the Bathers, Cézanne moved away from the traditional presentation of paintings, intentionally creating works that would not appeal to the novice viewer. He did this to avoid fleeting fads and give a timeless quality to his work, and in so doing paved the way for future artists to disregard current trends and paint pieces that would appeal equally to all generations. The abstract nude females present in Large Bathers give the painting tension and density. It is exceptional among his work in symmetrical dimensions, with the adaptation of the nude forms to the triangular pattern of the trees and river.
Genre: Still life
Location: Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, US
The Basket of Apples demonstrates how Cézanne employed multiple perspectives, a vivid colour palette and analytical brushwork to produce creative compositions in opposition to realistic depictions of everyday objects. He has been described as the “Father of Modern Art”, due to the fact that his paintings were the precursor to Fauvism and Cubism. The distortion displayed in this painting was a process that influenced the work ofPicasso and Georges Braque. This was noted by Braque in 1957, who stated, “The hard-and-fast rules of perspective which it succeeded in imposing on art were a ghastly mistake which it has taken four centuries to redress; Paul Cézanne and after him Picasso and myself can take a lot of credit for this.”
Location: Barnes Foundation, Lower Merion, PA, US
Montagne Sainte-Victoire is a mountain in southern France, overlooking Aix-en-Provence. It became the subject of a number of Cézanne’s paintings, in total numbering about thirty paintings and watercolors. Mont Sainte-Victoire became one of Cézanne’s most repeated and varied themes, with Cézanne changing something about the scene each time, from his angle to the lighting to the compositional specifics to the mood he tried to evoke. Cézanne used three primary vantage points for these paintings: near his brother’s property in Bellevue, near Bibemus quarry, and in Les Lauves. His scenes generally included Mont Sainte-Victoire itself, a grey-white limestone mountain, and the surrounding valley and plains that the mountain rose from.
These paintings belong to Post-Impressionism. Cézanne used geometry to describe nature and different colours to represent the depth of objects. Cézanne generally tried to convey the eternal, interior structure of the scene before him, more than the ephemeral surface features.
Location: Barnes Foundation, Lower Merion, PA, US
Cézanne was in his fifties when he undertook a painting campaign devoted to giving memorable form to a subject that inspired the likes of Caravaggio and Chardin. He was determined from the start—as we see in this sturdy Provençal scene—to make it his own. Cézanne carefully crafted this composition from figure studies he had made of local farmhands. Once he had puzzled-out his conception, he continued to fine-tune the poses and positions of the card players, until they—like the four pipes hanging on the wall behind them—each fell perfectly into place. Cézanne channeled the quiet authority he achieved here into a much larger variant (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia) and punctuated the series with three works in which he pared away extraneous details to focus his gaze on a pair of players.
Location: Private Collection
Pyramid of Skulls is a c. 1901 oil on canvas painting by French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. It depicts four human skulls stacked in a pyramidal formation, a subject matter that increasingly preoccupied Cézanne in later life.
Cézanne’s preoccupation with death was an ongoing theme that can be identified in a number of still life skull paintings that he produced between 1898 and 1905. These paintings, produced in both oils and watercolour, offer a more subtle representation of the traditional theme of vanitas. A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death.
Location: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Forest is a landscape painted in oils on canvas, which measures 81.9 cm x 66 cm. The location represented in the painting may be the entrance to the Château Noir, an estate that Cézanne frequented in order to paint. The composition employs warm, earthy colours to depict the red rocks in the centre of the painting. Towards the edges, Cézanne used cooler tones of grey and blue to depict the foliage and the sky. He also purposefully used looser brushstrokes and created patches of colour on the edges alongside bare canvas.
Genre: History painting
Location: Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France
A Modern Olympia (1874) by Paul Cézanne was an homage to Édouard Manet’s painting Olympia (1863) that caused a great scandal when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. Manet’s Olympia shows a nude woman lying on the bed while a servant brings her flowers. It was modeled after the painting Venus of Urbino (ca. 1534) by Renaissance painter Titian. However, Manet’s Olympia was not a Roman goddess, and a contemporary audience was able to unequivocally identify her as a prostituted woman. In the 19th century Paris ‘Olympia’ was a slang word for ‘prostitute’, and Manet revealed his model’s identity through several details in the painting: the contemporary accessories symbolized wealth and sensuality, the black cat was a symbol of prostitution and above all the gaze of the model confronted the viewer directly. The painting broke with academic tradition and convention by rejecting the idealized nude that represented historical or mythical figures. Despite the controversy, Olympia was greatly admired by artists Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne, as well as by writer Émile Zola.
Location: Private collection
After settling in Aix, France, in 1899, Cézanne ventured daily into the surrounding Provencal landscape in search of subjects to paint. Chateau Noir, a recently constructed neo-Gothic castle designed to mimic aged ruins, captivated him. He repeatedly represented this structure and also painted from its grounds, where he had an unobstructed view of nearby Mont Sainte-Victoire, another favored subject. As is typical of landscapes executed late in his career, Cćzanne applied thick paint in broad, multihued swatches.
Genre: Still life
Location: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Cézanne explored various genres throughout his artistic career, including landscapes and portraiture, but repeatedly returned to the subject of still life. It was a genre that historically had been disregarded in art as unimaginative, yet Cézanne challenged the establishment by focusing on everyday objects. He was particularly drawn to fruit, which he used to explore the correspondence between objects and the harmony and balance of composition. Although his objects appear to have been placed randomly, the images were carefully constructed to experiment with perspective.
Cézanne’s distinctive brushwork and distortion of the subject eventually influenced new art styles during the 20th century such as Cubism.
Location: Tate Gallery, London
Cézanne painted scores of self-portraits, many of them in exactly this pose and on canvases of about the same size, recording his appearance and self-image as well as his progress as a painter. In this powerfully modeled portrait, painted when he was about forty years old and at an age that invites self-appraisal, Cézanne looks at himself unflinchingly, objectively reporting his knobby features and generally lumpy, unrefined, and shaggy appearance. His jacket, loosely and roughly painted, looks, in places, to be of the same fabric as the canvas. Cézanne’s hair reaches his collar and his neck hides behind his clothing and his messy beard.
Genre: Still life
Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
In his lifetime, Cézanne was ridiculed for lack of conventional artistic skill, and excoriated for his aesthetic eccentricity. In other words, he did not paint like other people. But he stated ‘I shall astonish Paris with an apple.’ Here he astonishes us with apples, pears and melons which jostle for their own space, and demand our attention like no static still-life or nature morte (‘dead nature’, as the French call it) ever could.
Location: Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, France
During Cézanne’s time, abandoned houses were common in the countryside of Provence due to the rules of inheritance, which distributed property equally among sons. Here Cézanne records specific details of the structure, like the thick crack on the facade that leads up to a small window. The relationship of the house to the surrounding wall is difficult to discern, particularly in the left-hand corner, where the perspective seems to shift. Such deliberate spatial ambiguities are typical of Cezanne’s landscapes from this period.