Cezanne was born in Aix-en-Provence to a wealthy
family and received a classical education. His father had
charted his path in life for him, to become a banker and a
lawyer. He fled to Paris to paint but found out that he was
technically inferior to his fellow students and gave up after
five months and returned home. There he tried banking, failed
and then spent time going back and forth between Paris and
Aix many times between 1858 and 1872.
Cezanne met the young Impressionists but never became close
to them except for Pissarro who took him under his wing. His
violent temper and rudeness made him unbearable. He gradually
soaked up the colors of Impressionism but was never interested
in the way they tried to capture the look, feel, and aura
of nature. Cezanne said that all of nature could be distilled
to the cylinder, sphere and cone.
Cezanne was fascinated with the still life and painted over
two hundred. In his late watercolors and landscapes he developed
a magical series of brushstrokes that looked like dragonfly
wings, ever shifting, overlapping and breaking apart and coming
back together. Cubism was not far off.
Cezanne was an artist's artist, and his restrained pictures
are impersonal and remote, much like his personality. His
art misunderstood and discredited by art critics eventually
challenged all the conventional values of painting through
his insistence on personal expression and on the integrity
of the painting itself.