Paul Cézanne was born in 1839 in Aix, France. His father’s wealth and eventual large inheritance gave him financial security. They made it possible for him to study art at the “École des Beaux-Arts” in Aix and Paris at the “Académie Suisse.” In Paris, he met other artists, and they experimented with different techniques. But after a while, he started to distance himself from his friends and other artists and even left Paris.
He developed his own style, and although most of his artworks were not understood by the art community of the time, he is nowadays acknowledged as the father of some vital art movements. He also influenced many other famous artists. In this article, we’ll look at his influence and briefly discuss some famous artists his work has inspired.
Art historians believe that famous painter Cezanne and his works directly influenced many artists. Clear traces of Cezanne’s techniques and ideas can be found in the artworks of these artists, and they are seen as Cezanne’s “successors.”
Usually, there are about 18 to 20 famous painters singled out by art scholars. These artists include Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian, Beckmann, Braque, Giacometti, Léger, Gorky, Giorgio Morandi, Liubov Popova, Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Kelly, Jeff Wall, Brice Marden, Sherrie Levine, and Francis Alÿs.
Usually, the painters who were directly influenced by Cezanne in person, via his paintings, or by studying his ideas and techniques were openly grateful for his contributions to their art.
Some art lovers cannot understand why Cezanne was so influential. According to them, some other painters in the same period were more emotionally intense and seductive than Cezanne. Part of the answer is that he was seen as a savior by the avant-garde artists who succeeded him. As a result, he managed to “merge” styles and ideas to form new concepts.
When young painter Cezanne was in his 20s and 30s, he was introduced to Impressionism – the movement that threw away centuries of painting conventions such as the obligation to build up forms from dark to light, to use a single-point perspective, or to use symbols for validation. But Cezanne was, in a sense, a Classicist who wanted a sense of permanence, and he combined Impressionistic breakthroughs with the beautiful French Classical tradition. As a result, he became an essential Post-Impressionist role model.
Later in his life, he worked independently, and his works were sometimes not understood, but he developed new painting techniques and successfully converted impressions into emotions. This way of painting had a significant influence on many painters.
Cézanne was also the forefather of Fauvism and a precursor to Cubism. Because of his role in these groundbreaking genres, Cézanne is internationally known as one of the foremost figures in modern art’s history.
Cezanne’s opening up of new ideas and techniques had an enormous effect on the art of the next century. For example, when Matisse struggled with his boldly colored Fauvist paintings, he found answers in Cézanne’s call for calm and clarity.
Picasso also found some answers in Paul Cezanne’s drawings and paintings when he struggled with the concept of getting the essence of nature in his paintings. Cézanne always insisted on redoing nature according to a system of primary forms. This gave Picasso his answer, and it had a significant influence on most of Picasso’s artworks. Picasso found Cezanne’s paintings the model of how to distill the essentials from nature to achieve a surface expressing the artist’s singular vision.
When Picasso and Braque were developing Cubism, they struggled with Gauguin, Van Gogh’s competing influences, and tribal and ancient art aspects. Finally, they found their answer on how to look at their problem in Cezanne’s profound fascination with how objects can seem to escape their own contours and boundaries.
Artists sometimes don’t want to acknowledge the influence that other artists might have had on their work. Sometimes they are not aware of other artists’ influence on their artworks.
But it seems as if it was not the case when Cezanne influenced another artist’s work. The artists who have been influenced by him usually publicly acknowledge it. Gauguin, for instance, studied Cezanne’s paintings, and he always acknowledged that Cezanne’s works had influenced him to a great extent. He even became an early collector of Cézanne’s paintings. Gauguin also included himself in work from 1890 titled “Portrait de femme à la nature morte de Cézanne.”
Vincent van Gogh mentioned Cezanne in at least 13 letters to his brother. Picasso said at an exhibition of Cezanne’s paintings, “He was like the father of us all.” Matisse said: “Cézanne is a sort of God of painting,” and according to Bonnard, Cezanne was the painter “who was most powerfully armed in front of nature, the strongest, the most sincere.”
According to Picasso, Cézanne’s uncertainty was what interested later artists. Cézanne was uncertain about positioning what he saw on the canvas before him. This uncertainty led to his marvelous patchwork compositions. In these compositions, blurred fragments seem to sit on the surface and recede. This technique creates a highly ambiguous sense of space. In other words, it is open to more than one interpretation.
Cubists used, developed, and schematized this idea further. Mondrian, for example, purified the technique, and the Cubists finally rejected appearances altogether as a distraction from “pure reality.”
Although Cézanne was mainly trying to create volume through color planes, the Cubists saw in his artworks the beginning of Cubism. Cezanne represented nature with geometric shapes, which was central to the early development of Cubism.
Cezanne influenced many famous painters due to his groundbreaking work in the Post-Impressionist era and the beginning of the Fauvism and Cubism movements.