Back when they were all students at Collège Bourbon, Paul Cezanne, Louis Marguery, and Jean-Baptiste Baille became the best of friends, and they gave themselves the playful name “Les Inséparables” (The Inseparables). During their school days, Cezanne even stood up for Emile Zola when he faced bullies in the schoolyard. In a gesture of gratitude, Zola once presented Cezanne with a basket of apples. This simple act left a lasting impression on Cezanne, and from that moment onwards, apples became one of his cherished subjects in his art.
Cezanne’s pursuit of ‘earthly happiness,’ as mentioned in an interview during the late 1890s, centred around the creation of his unique belle formule, or ‘beautiful way of painting.’
Although he worked alongside the Impressionists, Cezanne was forging his distinct artistic path. During his early years, he employed a palette knife to lay down broad areas of colour in a flat and unmodulated manner. As his career progressed, he incorporated repeated small strokes of paint, either parallel or perpendicular, with varying shades to construct forms. This method of using small brush strokes resembled that of his fellow Impressionists, yet it distinguished itself by his deliberate and patient approach, often spending hours on a single line. In Cezanne’s painted realm, apples took on spherical shapes, houses manifested as cubes, and trees became combinations of cylinders. His compositions exuded a strong sense of structure, with a pronounced emphasis on geometric shapes. These shapes would at times exhibit a slight blurring, a testament to how he meticulously observed them from multiple perspectives. Cezanne’s analytical approach, where he connected everything he observed to its primary geometric form, and his manipulation of linear perspective and three-dimensional space, which involved flattening objects to concentrate on their surfaces and viewing them from diverse angles, laid the groundwork for the emergence of Cubism in the 20th century.
La mer à l’Estaque
The Card Players (Les Joueurs de cartes)