The Master of Aix
Cézanne was one of the most important painters of the second half of the 19th century. He rarely dated his works (and often did not sign them either), which makes it hard to ascertain the chronology of his oeuvre with any precision. Until the end of his life he received little public success and was repeatedly rejected by the Paris Salon.
From 1872, under Pissarro’s influence, Cézanne painted the rich Impressionist effects of light on different surfaces and even exhibited twice with the Impresionist. His final years of his life from 1878-1905 were spent in Provence. It was here that he increasingly developed the style of his paintings and moved beyond a classic impressionist style.
The Sainte-Victoire mountain near Paul Cézanne‘s home in Aix-en-Provence was one of his favorite subjects and he is known to have painted it over 60 times. He was fascinated by the rugged architectural forms in the mountains of Provence and painted the same scene from many different angles.
“What I am trying to translate to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the implacable source of sensations.” The goal was never achieved and never clearly defined. What remains are his repeated obsessive attempts – to capture apples, or Mont St Victoire, or imaginary naked women on a riverbank.
In his last years his work began to influence many younger artists, including both the Fauves and the Cubists, and he is therefore often seen as a precursor of 20th-century art.
The Turn in the Road at Auvers_1873
The Card Players_1894-95
Basket of Apples_1895
The Large Bathers_1898-1905
At the time he painted this picture, Cézanne had an aversion to working directly from a nude model—so many of the figures in the picture are based on drawings from his student days or on studies he had made in the Louvre. The Large Bathers sums up Cézanne’s explorations during the last two decades of his life. It is arguably the greatest of his “Bathers” paintings—not only in terms of size, but also inventiveness, force, and majesty.
Since the Renaissance, nudes in a landscape had usually been depicted in an overtly sensual, erotic way. But in The Large Bathers, the women, who assume the poses of sensual nudes, are distinctly de-eroticized. Their faces are masklike, or blank, and their bodies forbiddingly angular and disjointed. They disturb rather than delight us.
Without the precedent of Cézanne’s “Bathers,” many works by Matisse, Picasso, de Kooning, and even Lucian Freud, among others, would have been quite simply inconceivable.