Today marks the birthday of Paul Cézanne.
Paul Cézanne’s life is a poignant reminder that it is not easy to be the bridge between ideas. It takes courage to go forward into unknown territory, alone without support or encouragement. Cézanne was the connection between two art forms – late 19th century Impressionism and early 20th century Cubism.
Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso bestowed Paul Cézanne with the honoured title of “the father of us all,” yet few recognized or celebrated his genius during his lifetime. He once said, “The world doesn’t understand me and I don’t understand the world, that’s why I’ve withdrawn from it.”
Paul Cézanne lived in Paris, met Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, became friends with Émile Zola and Paul Gauguin, and gained inspiration from visits to the Louvre. Even so, he was plagued by self-doubt. His artwork had the characteristics of the Impressionist style, but they never took on a delicate aesthetic sentiment. Some even say that his Impressionist style was unsettling and strained. In the 1880s, he saw less of his friends, choosing to live in isolation in Aix en Provence, in the South of France. Things changed in the 1890s, when Pissarro, Monet and Renoir urged the art dealer Ambroise Vollard to display several of Cézanne’s paintings. The time was right; public interest began to develop and a fresh appreciation of his work came into being.
Throughout those long years when his work engendered disappointing reactions, Paul Cézanne was establishing new paradigms for the development of modern art. “Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience,” he was quoted as saying. He lived by those words.
Happy birthday, Paul Cézanne! You have given me much to think about. I now ask myself – how often do I pass by artwork without giving it the due consideration and attention it deserves? Have I really tried to understand what the artist was trying to convey? Did I miss the opportunity to see something new, something dynamic because it didn’t fit into my notion of what constitutes art? Do I care enough about the artistic journey to pay attention? Would I have recognized your genius in your time?
“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”