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Post-Impressionist French painter Paul Cézanne is best known for his incredibly varied painting style which greatly affected 20th century abstract art.
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The same qualities characterize the weird Washing of a Corpse (1867-1869), which seems to picture the events in a morgue and to be a pietà as well.
A fascinating aspect of Cézanne's style in the 1860s is its sense of energy. Although the works are groping and uncertain in comparison to the artist's later expressions, they nevertheless reveal a profound depth of feeling. Each painting seems ready to explode its limits and its surface. Moreover,
each seems the conception of an artist who could be either madman or genius. That Cézanne would evolve into the latter, however, can in no way be known from these examples. Nor was it known by many, if any, of his contemporaries. Although Cézanne received encouragement from Pissarro and some of the other impressionists during the 1860s and enjoyed the occasional critical backing of his friend Zola, his pictures were consistently rejected by the annual Salons and frequently inspired more ridicule than did the early efforts of other experimenters in the same generation.
In 1872 Paul Cézanne moved to Pontoise, where he spent 2 years working very closely with Pissarro. During this period Cézanne became convinced that one must paint directly from nature, with the result that romantic and religious subjects began to disappear from his canvases. In addition, the somber, murky range of his palette began to give way to fresher, more vibrant colors.
As a direct result of his stay in Pontoise, Cézanne decided to participate in the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs in 1874. This historic exhibition, which was organized by radical artists who had been persistently rejected by the official Salons, inspired the term "impressionism"--originally a derogatory expression coined by a newspaper critic. It was the first of eight similar exhibits that took place between 1874 and 1886. After 1874, however, Cézanne exhibited in only one other impressionist show, the third, which was held in 1877 and to which he submitted 16 paintings.
After 1877 Cézanne gradually withdrew from his impressionist colleagues and worked in increasing isolation at his home in southern France. This withdrawal was linked with two factors: first, the more personal direction his work began to take, a direction not basically aligned with that of the other impressionists; second, the disappointing responses which his art continued to generate among the public at large. In fact, Cézanne did not exhibit publicly for almost 20 years after the third impressionist show.
Cézanne's paintings from the 1870s clearly show the influence of impressionism. In the House of the Hanged Man (1873-1874) and the Portrait of Victor Choque (1875-1877) he painted directly from the subject and employed the short, loaded brushstrokes which are characteristic of the style as it was forged by Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro. But Cézanne's impressionism never has the delicate look or the sensuous feel that the style has in the hands of its originators.
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