|In 2006, 100 years after his death, Paul Cezanne is considered the father of modern art, a vital bridge between the impressionist and cubist movements of the early 20th century, with his paintings selling for millions of dollars. But when he died on October 23, 1906, he was largely shunned and discredited by the public and critics alike, and had increasingly become a recluse in his beloved Provence.|
It was the rich and jumbled southern French countryside, soaked in the searing Mediterranean sun, that provided most of the inspiration for Cezanne's works, composed mainly of still-lifes and landscapes. "Cezanne lived this Provence soil intensely, painfully and amorously. This year he will bring alive his native land which so inspired him," says Maryse Joissains-Masini, mayor of his hometown Aix-en-Provence, which throughout the year is paying homage to his memory.
Events kicked off in Washington last weekend with a major exhibition, "Cezanne in Provence", bringing together for the first time 117 of his greatest oil paintings. Most of Cezanne's 900 works were scattered abroad following his death.
The exhibit will then move from June 9 to September 17 to the Musee Granet in Aix, where a whole series of events has been planned for the man who until now has not had a fitting shrine in France.
Not long after his death, Paul Cezanne was finally becoming appreciated for his importance in the great march of modern art. His career coincided with those of the great impressionists, but though he influenced most of them and used some of their techniques, he was too much the classicist, too much the technician, to be one of them. Importantly, he saw beyond the play of light and peered deep into structure, and thus foresaw cubism. Before the expressionists and the fauves, he was art's first "wild man", and indeed he had the temperament to justify the epithet. Stung by art critics and thus dismissive of them, scornful of his family, cold to his wife (whom he only married to legitimise their son) and belligerent to visitors even if they admired his work, he was a grumpy old man well into his final, ailing years. A meticulous, painstaking painter, he would fly into rages with little provocation and destroy canvases. But Cezanne's very volatility saved him from the mechanical repetition that doused ambition in others. Every brushstroke was a step forward.