He once said he has come too early. But better to say, he came before others.
Problem with the description of Cézanne’s work is its complexity and intellectualism. Additionally, it is intensified by the intricate analysis of his paintings by critics, philosophers and experts. His art is simply over-interpreted.
But somewhere, under the layers of rendition lies beauty which speaks to us directly from canvases. Simplified form and limited but carefully cherry-picked palette of colours interact smoothly with our ‘modern’ or ‘after-Picasso’ perception of art.
Cézanne was revolutionary. However, he was making his artistic upheaval single-handedly, in solitude. Literally and metaphorically. After a retreat to his birthplace, Aix-en-Provence in southern France, in 1877 he was working in isolation until death in 1906. And there he has gradually reinvented art as a whole.
His famous words to deal with nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone were so progressive and ahead of their times that only the next generation of painters understood how to make use of them.
Picasso himself has claimed Cézanne was his ‘one and only master’ and ‘father of us all’. Among other painters who could acknowledge his genius were Paul Gauguin, Kasimir Malevich, Georges Rouault, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian and Henri Matisse.
Well, all of them happen to be those who have turned the tradition of art upside down from the beginning of 20th century onwards.
“I have perhaps come too soon” – he once said to one younger artist. – “I was the painter of your generation more than my own. You are young, you have vitality… As for me, I’m getting old. I won’t have time to express myself… Let’s get to work!”