During his life, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was not held in very high regard by the general public and was belittled for his apparent lack of painting skills. However in later life, he was embraced by young Parisian artists, who saw him as a rebel figure and as a precursor to the expressionistic and cubist painting that followed him. He exercised a strong influence on Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris and Henri Matisse.
Even at his death, the contemporary art critics were unkind. One critic wrote, "The most admirable thing in the life of 'Father Cézanne' was his perseverance in painting badly." Since his death, his reputation has improved dramatically, and his work is avidly collected by institutions and individuals. This is attested by the sale of his Card Players sold in 2012 for a reported $250 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold.
Cézanne was a prolific artist who painted daily for nearly fifty years. There are nearly 1000 documented oil paints and and about 500 more watercolors. There are probably much more. Farmers in Provence would find his watercolors in their fields, which they picked up and sold to Paris dealers.
Many labels have been placed on Cézanne's paintings: impressionistic, post-impressionistic and constructionist. His painting evolved continuously throughout his life so all of these labels have some appropriateness, but much like Picasso his style was a personal one and not fully described by any style except his own.
Cézanne's art has been divided into four periods, but even these divisions are somewhat arbitrary. The periods include: dark, impressionistic, mature and final.
Dark Period (1861-1870)
These were the paintings of an artist who was both immature of mind and skill. They were painted realistically with dark and romantic themes. They were little valued at the time and they are the least desired by contemporary collectors.
Impressionistic Period (1870-1878)
In the early 1870's, Cezanne began painting with Camille Pissarro, who he had met ten years before. This association had a beneficial influence on Cézanne's work, and both he and Pissarro concentrated on landscapes, and gradually became influenced by the impressionists. They both exhibited with the impressionists. They both were viewed as impressionist as much by this association than by the style of their paintings. Nevertheless the label stuck.
It was during this period that Cézanne's reputation grew. But again this may have been as much about his new association with the impressionists as it was about his ability as a painter. Nevertheless, there was maturation in the work, and we see the emergence of a distinct Cézanne style.
A comprehensive article on Cezanne with many pictures.
►Cezanne's Complete Works
The complete catalog and images of all of Cezanne paintings.
Complete visual description of Cézanne's work, plus biography and other information.