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He spouted profanities yet could recite long passages of Virgil and Ovid in Latin. He scorned priests but went faithfully to Mass. He hated the official Paris Salon but kept submitting his work to its judges. He was obsessed with tradition and obsessed with overturning it. He felt himself a failure. The old masters, he told the poet Joachim Gasquet, painted warmblooded flesh and made sap run in their trees, and he would too. He was bold, scraping and slapping paint onto his still lifes with a palette knife.

And my eyes, you know, my wife tells me that they jump out of my head. As no one took the least interest in his pictures, he left them in the fields.

And his paintings were clearly an inspiration to artists who followed, including Matisse, Picasso and Alberto Giacometti. He was a rebel from the start. Among his earliest paintings—finished when he was 23—are four huge wall panels of young women representing the four seasons. He painted them in the elegant, academic style of Ingres, so pleasing to bourgeoisie taste.

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They decorated the salon of the family estate in Aix. The painting was done with a palette knife—its thick, crude slabs of paint suggesting the handiwork of a mason or plasterer. Remember, he said, we die with genius, but we eat with money. The two were frequently at odds. The artist would resent this patronage all his life, even though he depended on it. His mother, Elizabeth, supported his desire to be an artist and tried to keep peace in the family by mediating between father and son.

His friend Zola was one of the few to champion him. In he and Pissarro, nine years his elder, began to paint together out-of-doors in villages outside Paris. The collaboration made both men more daring. He also began incorporating brighter colors and explored new ways of applying paint, using both brushes and palette knives.

Gombrich explains Cézanne | Art | Agenda | Phaidon

But in other ways the two men were similar. Salon officials accepted his painting of a naked courtesan, Olympia , an adaptation of a Titian Venus but painted without the conventional refinement. He disliked being touched even his son would ask permission before taking his arm , and he was fearful of women. When, around , he met and fell in love with Hortense Fiquet, a year-old model 11 years his junior, he took great pains to hide her from his father who still held the purse strings.

They lived apart as much as together during their year relationship, even after their son, Paul Jr.

His themes

She stares out from the many portraits he made of her looking bored or pained. Her patience helped make him a master of the modern portrait. The interior of the picture vibrates, rises, falls back into itself, and does not have a single unmoving part.

And in many of his canvases he succeeded in creating a new sense of space. Are you sitting on the edge of the wall? Are you falling off the side of the path? Monet wrote about an incident at a dinner with a group of artists at his home in Giverny. I want to know.


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I just want to find things out. In his black frock coat, he looked like a banker as he painted. He was so reclusive that some in the art world thought he had died. When Tanguy died, however, a more ambitious dealer, Ambroise Vollard, took possession of the paintings and tracked down the artist in Aix. By then, his fame had spread and young artists, including Emile Bernard, came to learn from him.

But his time was running out. A comparable feeling of tragedy, of impending death, is powerfully present. At the same time, the views he painted from the terrace of Les Lauves are radiant. But while he worked, he was caught in a sudden thunderstorm and collapsed. A passerby found him and carried him, half conscious, back into town on a laundry cart.

The visitor remembers the painter is some kind of Impressionist who painted outdoors. For one thing, painting in front of the motif was paramount: The artist set up an easel directly in view of his or her subject, whether a landscape, portrait, or still life. By painting directly from nature, the Impressionists broke with the academic practice of painting historical subjects by looking to the art of the past.

For him, painting in front of the motif did not preclude a genuine and ongoing study of the Old Masters. He said he needed to return to the museum for more study. As Manet approached mid-career, however, he concentrated on modern urban subjects and no longer engaged in cheeky reworkings of great paintings from the museums of Florence and Venice.

Impressionists like Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir focused on modern landscape and figurative subjects from the beginnings of their careers.

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Although Edgar Degas collected Old Master paintings and drawings, he too concentrated on modern subjects, especially the racetrack and the ballet, once he began to exhibit with the Impressionists. After the Post-Impressionists, Fauvists, Cubists, and other modernist artists began to build on the Impressionist foundation for modern art, the idea of originality took precedence over reverence for the past.


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Modernist artists were supposed to make a break with the past as they strove to create something entirely new. In , the Louvre displayed a recent bequest of over five hundred paintings given to the museum by the physician Louis La Caze — Among these canvases were works by great Italian masters such as Veronese and Tintoretto.

Chardin pairs a cut pomegranate with one that is uncut, purple grapes with green, a goblet of wine that is mostly full with one that is mostly empty. Two small apples and a pear sit astride a knife that projects forward from the stone ledge, and the fruit is arranged in front of a faience water pitcher. The pitcher leans slightly toward the fruit bowl, the central lemon tips toward the viewer, the grapefruit at right sits in front of a trio of fruit but behind two apples. Slender lines of red trace the protuberance on the central lemon, before the lines peter out and allow a penciled outline to show through.

On the apple at far right, an orange-red segment of a circle lies just above the fruit itself. It breaks off into more blue shadow, blue-gray tablecloth, and dark blue contour; the red patch seems to sit on top of the apple rather than being part of the apple. Likewise, on the grapefruit behind it, contours at left and right do not meet, and a yellow strip flows out between two open contours as if entering or exiting a maze.

Clement Greenberg declared these aesthetic choices to be modernist ones. Chardin was a master at suggesting the translucency of the grapes through the irregular dabs of white light off-center, and the comma of yellow-green hugging the right sides of the green grapes.

Paul Cézanne

Look in particular at the lone green grape that has rolled out in front of the cut pomegranate at left. Seemingly the same color as the grape and joined to it, this yellow-green dab is a tiny pool of refracted light on the table edge. On top of the grape, there is a gray-green kidney shape.

This form almost bulges as it exceeds the boundaries of the grape itself.