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Cezanne's distinctive style, which imposed a new kind of order on nature, establishes him as one of the founders of modern art. His painting reached maturity in the 1870s: the portrait of Madame Cezanne shows him simplifying and distorting her image in the interests of artistic unity. Boy in a Red Waistcoat continues the same trend.
Cezanne was happiest painting people and places he knew well: the sturdy Provencal Card Players, for example, and The Great Pine. He was less productive away from his home ground, although paintings such as the Lake at Annecy bear his unmistakable stamp. And he produced numerous works in his studio, where he was free to organize the natural elements for still-life such as Apples and Oranges.
Around the turn of the century, Cezanne's painting became freer, more fluid and even more simplified. This can be seen in The Great Bathers and Mont Sainte-Victoire, where his system of painting with patches of pure colour paves the way for abstract art.
Painted nine years before they married, Cezanne's portrait of Hortense is remarkably impersonal. He was less concerned with revealing his mistress's character than with the way the cool tones and flattened stripes of the dress are enveloped by the warm pinks and rounded shapes of the armchair.
Although he rarely used professional sitters, Cezanne made four oil portraits of this young Italian model, Michelangelo di Rosa. The boy stands with hand on hip, in the classic pose of the life-class nude, the curve of his body counterbalanced by the swinging drapery.
Cezanne's paintings of local Provencal men quietly concentrating on a game of cards are among his most popular works. He has stripped the scene to its bare essentials two men facing each other across a table. Yet, quiet and provincial as it first appears, this is a revolutionary painting. For the sake of artistic unity, Cezanne has abandoned traditional perspective for example; the table appears irregularly shaped as it is seen from several angles at once. Its top is tilted forwards, while the men's bent knees appear flattened one above the other against the front of the picture. And although the painting seems to be made up of grays and browns, rough patches of blue, red and green, as well as areas of bare canvas, give the picture a subtle vitality.
This romantic image of a great tree buffeted by the forces of nature, yet rising above them, originates from a poem which Cezanne wrote in his youth about 'The tree shaken by the fury of the winds. The apparently simple composition, centring on the tree's buckled trunk, evokes a powerful sense of tension.
Cezanne painted this alpine lake near the Swiss frontier to 'divert' himself during one of the rare trips he made during his last years. Although he found the mountainous scenery claustrophobic, he created a memorable image, particularly striking because of the apparent solidity of the water.
'This is one of the most sumptuous of all Cezanne’s still-life. The complex arrangement of fruit, dishes, jug out dreggy on a table which slops dramatically upwards from the left is given, stability by the bold zigzag line created by the edges of the white cloth. It was painting in Aix: some of the objects in the imbuing are served there, in his Chemin des Lances mho.
Nearly seven feet high and over eight feet long, this is the largest of a late series of paintings in which Cezanne attempted to integrate nude figures with landscape. He achieved his aim: figures and landscape almost merge as the arch of the trees soars up from the simplified curves of the wormer’s bodies.
Cezanne was obsessed with this huge limestone mountain, which stands some 10 miles from Aix, and painted it over 60 times with increasing freedom. In this late work, the sequence of fluid paint patches, which are used to suggest the natural elements of the landscape, become an almost abstract mosaic of colour.
Writer – Marshall Cavendish