Cezanne in Aix

Paul Cezanne was born in Aix en Provence in 1839 and died there in 1906. The work he left behind influenced Picasso, Matisse Braque, Mondrian, Kandinsky, to name a few, and led to him being thought of as the father of modern art.

At school at what is now the lycée Mignet in Aix, one of his best friends was Emile Zola, the great writer-to-be.

Cezanne’s father pushed him to study law, but his artistic leanings took Cezanne to Paris to study art. It was in Paris that he became friends with Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley. Pissarro mentored him and showed him the new Impressionist technique of rendering outdoor light.

In 1874 Cezanne participated in the first Impresionnist exhibition, which was met by general outcry, so unloved was the work on show. It was not until 1882 that Cezanne managed to get another of his paintings on show.

Having failed to conquer Paris, Cezanne returned to the south, and immersed himself in the unique light and landscapes around Aix.

Cezanne’s last 20 years were his most productive, and he even gained recognition, being seen as the link between classical art and the 20th century ideas of cubism, fauvism and abstract art. In his last years, young artists flocked to his studio hoping for titbits of advice.

You cannot walk the streets of Aix without becoming aware of his place in the city, with the little studs with a ‘C’ for Cezanne punctuating the places that played a part in his life, from the house where he was born, to the one in which he died. The schools he attended, the church where he married, the cafes where he drank all carry the ‘C’. You can download a map of the plaques with explanations (in French only) here: http://www.aixenprovencetourism.com/pdf/cezanne-fr.pdf

Le Jas de Bouffan

When Cezanne was 20 years old his father bought Jas de Bouffan  just outside Aix, and it was here that Cezanne started painting outside, with famous views of the tree-lined drive and fountain. He sought out subjects amid the tenant farmers on the land: a man smoking a pipe, a group of card players.

And he did his first painting of the mountain just outside Aix that he would keep returning to: Sainte-Victoire. As a child he knew every path to its summit. As a painter he portrayed Sainte-Victoire from every angle, even renting a room with a particular view so the he could paint it again and again. He painted Sainte-Victoire so often that nobody knows many times he painted the mountain.