Paul Cézanne, The Master
Born in Aix-en-Provence, Paul Cézanne (1839‒1906) spent most of his life painting in the south of France. In 1857, at the age of 18, he began to study drawing, and four years later moved to Paris to continue his art education. Throughout the 1860s, Cézanne traveled freely between his home in Aix and Paris. He became active in the artistic scene in Paris, becoming close friends with Camille Pissarro, who, during the 1870s, encouraged him to use his creativity to produce tranquil Impressionist landscapes. As his career progressed, he preferred to paint certain subjects—still lifes, landscapes, figurative works and portraits—which were all produced with a strong sense of design, and an innovative technique of building form with layers of color.
In 1895, Cézanne had his first one-man exhibition at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery in Paris, marking the start of a new phase in his career where he received more public attention. Cézanne spent most of the final decade of his life painting the landscape near his home in Aix, and his late works are infused with a new intensity that moves toward abstraction. After his death in 1906, a large-scale retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907 permitted a large audience of critics, art enthusiasts, and fellow artists to see his work for the first time. Cézanne’s reputation spread largely among artists—including those featured in the exhibition—though few of the artists influenced by his work ever met him in person. For example, Matisse, who regarded Cézanne as “the father of us all,” passed along his admiration of the French master’s work to his students, including Americans Max Weber and Alfred Maurer.
American expatriate Leo Stein can also be credited with spreading knowledge about the French master’s genius to many collectors and artists, as he acquired his first Cézanne painting in 1904. He shared his discovery with his sister, the writer Gertrude Stein, who joined him in the eventual purchase of at least 18 works by Cézanne. The Steins’ Parisian apartment was the primary gathering place for many American and European artists, as well as collectors such as Baltimore sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, who could see works by Cézanne side-by-side with paintings by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.