“I point the way. Others will come after.”
Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) is undoubtedly considered as one of the most highly regarded artists of the late nineteenth century, and his legacy continues into the present day. The Tate Modern has created a phenomenal 11-room exhibition with a vast collection of his works, as well as personal items and sketch books. The first half of the exhibition focuses on Cezanne in the context of his time; exploring his life, relationships, and the creative circle in which he was surrounded. Within the second half of the exhibition, the focus is on particular themes, which include his still lifes and his studies of bathers.
In the first room I was captured by the painting ‘The Basket of Apples’, which was painted circa 1893. This painting contains the largest number of apples in any of his paintings. The apples in the painting were said to have grown locally and the pottery was made from local clay, illustrating his love for his hometown. The tilted table allows for two perspectives and is one of the most iconic artworks of the Post-Impressionist movement.
The painting ‘Scipio’, situated in the second room, is one of many paintings by Cezanne that was bought by Claude Monet. The portrait is one of Cezanne’s early works, painted between 1866-8. The subject is a man named Scipio, who was a professional model at the Académie Suisse. It is believed that he was a former slave in the US; Cezanne and his friends were aware of and involved in anti-slavery debates.
At the age of 22, Cezanne faced the difficult decision of staying in his hometown to study law, which was encouraged by his father, or go to Paris with school friend Émile Zola (1840-1902) to pursue his creative career. Although Cezanne moved to Paris, he often returned to Aix, which strongly influenced his working practice, career, and style.
‘The Sea at L’Estaque Behind Trees’ took nearly two years to paint and depicts a fishing village located on the bay of Marseille, where Cezanne went on holiday as a child. It has often been described as the place where Cezanne became Cezanne. The composition of this painting is fantastic, the twisting trees create an arch which perfectly frames the village below.
Mont Sainte-Victoire was Cezanne’s favourite landscape, the limestone mountain is situated near the city of Aix-en-Provence. It appeared more than eighty times in his oil paintings and watercolours between 1882 and 1906. ‘Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry’ is an example of the many paintings inspired by this site.
Cezanne’s paintings of bathers were composed by taking a very modern approach, instead of using life models for his sketches, Cezanne studied paintings and sculptures in various museums. It is said that Cezanne was too shy to hire models, so instead he used the works of other artists for his inspiration. ‘Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)’ is one of three large canvases depicting female bathers, which he worked on during his final years.
This wonderful exhibition is a must-see, every room allows you to discover more about this incredible artist who’s impact on other artists is certainly clear.
"Cezanne's influence gradually flooded everything."- Pablo Picasso