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Post-Impressionist French painter Paul Cézanne is best known for his incredibly varied painting style, which greatly influenced 20th century abstract art.
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In "House of the Hanged Man" (1873-1874) and "Portrait of Victor Choque" (1875-1877), he painted directly from the subject and employed short, loaded brushstrokes—characteristic of the Impressionist style as well as the works of Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. But unlike the way the movement's originators interpreted the Impressionist style, Cézanne's Impressionism never took on a delicate asthetic or sensuous feel; his Impressionism has been deemeed strained and discomforting,
as if he were fiercely trying to coalesce color, brushstroke, surface and volume into a more tautly unified entity. For instance, Cézanne created the surface of "Portrait of Victor Choque" through an obvious struggle, giving each brushstroke parity with its adjacent strokes, thereby calling attention to the unity and flatness of the canvas ground, and presenting a convincing impression of the volume and substantiality of the object.
Mature Impressionism tended to forsake the Cézanne's and other deviating interpretations of the classic style. The artist spent most of the 1880s developing a pictorial "language" that would reconcile both the original and progressive forms of the style—for which there was no precedent.
During the 1880s, Cézanne saw less and less of his friends, and several personal events affected him deeply. He married Hortense Fiquet, a model with whom he'd been living for 17 years, in 1886, and his father died that same year. Probably the most significant event of this year, however, was the publication of the novel L'Oeuvre by Cézanne's friend Zola. The hero of the story is a painter (generally acknowledged to be a composite of Cézanne and Manet) who is presented as an artistic failure. Cézanne took this presentation as a critical denunciation of his own career, which hurt him deeply, and he never spoke to Zola again.
Cézanne's isolation in Aix began to lessen during the 1890s. In 1895, largely due to the urging of Pissarro, Monet and Renoir, art dealer Ambroise Vollard showed several of Cézanne's paintings. As a result, public interest in Cézanne's work slowly began to develop. The artist sent pictures to the annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1899, 1901 and 1902, and he was given an entire room at the Salon d'Automne in 1904.
While painting outdoors in the fall of 1906, Cézanne was overtaken by a storm and became ill. The artist died in the city of his birth, Aix, on October 22, 1906. At the Salon d'Automne of 1907, Cézanne's artistic achievements were honored with a large retrospective exhibition.
Cézanne's paintings from the last three decades of his life established new paradigms for the development of modern art. Working slowly and patiently, the painter transformed the restless power of his earlier years into the structuring of a pictorial language that would go on to impact nearly every radical phase of 20th century art.
This new language is apparent in many of Cézanne's works, including "Bay of Marseilles from L'Estaque" (1883-1885); "Mont Sainte-Victoire" (1885-1887); "The Cardplayers" (1890-1892); "Sugar Bowl, Pears and Blue Cup" (1866); and "The Large Bathers" (1895-1905). Each of these works seems to confront the viewer with its identity as a work of art; landscapes, still lifes and portraits seem to spread out in all directions across the surface of the canvas, demanding the viewer's full attention.
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