Paul Cézanne

Mature Work

Cézanne sought to "recreate nature" by simplifying forms to their basic geometric equivalents, utilizing contrasts of color and considerable distortion to express the essence of landscape (e.g., Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1885–87, Phillips Coll., Washington, D.C.), still lifes (e.g., The Kitchen Table, 1888–90, Louvre), and figural groupings (e.g., The Card Players, 1890–92; one version, S.C. Clark Coll., New York City). His portraits are vital studies of character, e.g., Madame Cézanne (c.1885; S. S. and V. White Coll., Ardmore, Pa.) and Ambroise Vollard (Musée du Petit Palais, Paris).

Cézanne developed a new type of spatial pattern. Instead of adhering to the traditional focalized system of perspective, he portrayed objects from shifting viewpoints. He created vibrating surface effects from the play of flat planes against one another and from the subtle transitions of tone and color. In all his work he revealed a reverence for the integrity and dignity of simple forms by rendering them with an almost classical structural stability. His Bathers (1898–1905; Philadelphia Mus. of Art) is the monumental embodiment of a number of Cézanne's visual systems.

The artist's later works are largely still lifes (among them his famous apples), male figures, and recurring landscape subjects. While retaining a solid substructure, they seem freer and more spontaneous and employ more transparent painterly effects than earlier works. Cézanne worked in oil, watercolor, and drawing media, often making several versions of his works.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art, 1600 to the Present: Biographies