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In the footsteps of Cézanne

Paul Cézanne, born on 19 January 1839 in Aix-en-Provence and died in the same town on 22 October 1906, is a world-famous painter. He painted about 900 pictures and 400 watercolours. After his death, he will be considered as the precursor of post-impressionism and cubism and as the “father of modern art”. His mother Anne Aubert was a milliner. His father Louis Auguste Cézanne was also a hatter at 55 cours Mirabeau, then a banker with an associate at 24 Cordeliers street. Cézanne had two younger sisters. He was a pupil at Bourbon College (today Mignet College) between 1852 and 1858 where he became friends with Emile Zola for whom he had great admiration throughout his life. From 1857 onwards he attended classes at the school of drawing in Aix-en-Provence. In 1860 he gave up his law studies to go to Paris where his friend Emile Zola was waiting for him. He will fail the entrance examination to the School of Fine Arts in Paris and will be for a while registered as a copyist at the Louvre. He frequented Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and many other artists. In 1869 he met Hortense Fiquet, whom he would only marry in 1886 and with whom he had a son Paul in 1872 (Cézanne painted 45 portraits of Hortense). Much criticised during his lifetime, Cézanne did not live from his art (except for the last ten years of his life) but above all from the pension paid to him by his father and the help of his friend Emile Zola. Yet great painters such as Renoir, Monet, Degas and Pissarro were the first to recognise his immense talent. It was only around 1891 that his work was recognised by the critics and in 1895 Ambroise Vollard became his dealer and bought the artist’s entire studio in 1899. In the midst of his success, Cézanne was annoyed by the resale of his paintings, whose prices were rising, and by the capital gains made by Gauguin and a few others who took advantage of them.

L’atelier de Cézanne (the Lauves workshop)

After his mother’s death in 1897 Cézanne sold the family home “la bastide du Jas-de-Bouffan” where his father had set up a workshop for him in 1881. Between 1901 and 1902 he had his workshop built to the north of Aix where he worked every morning until his death. A visit to the studio is very moving for the painter’s admirers because the place has remained as it was since his death. It is here, among his clothes hung on hangers, his furniture, the objects that were dear to him and which served as models, his working materials, that you will feel the artist’s presence with intensity. 

The road of the painters

A few hundred metres from the workshop on a hill, a belvedere was built in 2004 with a superb view of St. Victoire, where 10 panels reproduce paintings by Cézanne from this site. It was between 1902 and 1906 that, from this location, he produced 11 oil paintings and 17 watercolours of the St-Victoire mountain, several of which are now exhibited in the world’s greatest museums. And it was on this very spot that on 15 October 1906, Cézanne, surprised by a storm, collapsed and lay in the rain for long hours before being taken home to the centre of Aix-en-Provence in a launderer’s cart. He no longer had the strength to go to his studio to paint, and died a week later of pneumonia. Many tributes and retrospective exhibitions throughout the world will be paid to him after his death.
Possibility to stop at the cemetery of Saint-Pierre d’Aix-en-Provence to visit the grave of Paul Cézanne.

Sainte Victoire – Walk around the Sainte Victoire

We will go to finish for a drive around the Sainte-Victoire mountain so dear to the artist and we will have an aperitif break at the foot of the mountain.