Paul Cézanne: The Father of Modern Art

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Duration 01:09:24

Temple University

Matt is an independent art history lecturer, consultant, and educator, focusing on vanguard art after around 1850. He presents talks online and globally for academic, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. His presentations include those for Renaissance Weekend, Stanford University, The Wharton School, Road Scholar, and United Airlines. He is an Adjunct Senior Instructor at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and has taught at the Tyler School of Art (Temple University) since 2004.


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Paul Cézanne is among the most celebrated painters in the canon. As Henri Matisse noted: “In modern art, it is undoubtedly to Cézanne that I owe the most.” With his portraits, still-lives, and landscapes, he sought to – as he famously quipped – “treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone.” Cézanne’s work bridged the gap between Impressionism and the pioneering developments in the School of Paris during the first decade of the 20th century. Discover why Pablo Picasso believed he was “the father of us all,” and how his remarkable paintings had such a profound impact on generations of artists.


Recommended Reading:

Cézanne and Beyond, ex. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009

Cézanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev

The Letters of Paul Cézanne, by Alex Danchev


Discussion Questions:

1. In which ways was Cézanne an innovator?

2. How did Picasso, Matisse, and other artists respond to his work?

3. What are some of Cézanne’s most important works?




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Wendy Meer


Thank you for an enlightening lecture on Cezanne. Very detailed and extremely well articulated.

1 year ago
Maggie Olmstead

Good talk

This was an informative lecture, but it left more questions than answers, I’m afraid:

Why did Cezanne paint still lifes with twisted perspective? Was it strictly a reaction to photography, or was it a form of proto-cubism? Did he ever write about that to explain himself?

Cezanne was famously anti-social; the lecturer adds that he hated to be touched. It sounds to me that Cezanne was somewhere on the Autistic spectrum. Has anyone ever investigated that?

Was his wife also on the spectrum, and so married the man who wouldn’t want a lot of touching?

No matter the subject, Cezanne’s palette tended towards green/blue. Why was that? Was it a matter of style, taste, or artistic statement?

The lecturer dodged the question, “why do artists paint so many still lifes?” One answer is that it’s easier than painting from a live model: the subject is there, day and night; it doesn’t complain that the pose is awkward, it’s too hot or too cold, and so on. It’s also a matter of marketing: still lifes are versatile as decoration, so they’re great sellers. Nudes attract attention, but they don’t sell well. Portraits are lucrative but risky, since the subject can simply not buy it if he or she is unhappy with the result.

Photography was supposed to replace painting, but painting adapted and is as strong as ever. What about the AI writing apps that are out today, that are said to threaten the future of authors? How might writing adapt in the future? (OK, this is too far afield for a Cezanne biography, but this lecture begs the question.)

1 year ago
Maggie Olmstead

... and another thing:

Cezanne wrote about being a conduit for nature, but his paintings are not that: changes in perspective, altering forms, disregard for light and shade, and in many cases, brushwork that overwhelmed the subject. How did he reconcile that? What do modern critics say?

1 year ago
barbara ann.fields

Personality influences Painting

Thank you for your talk on the personality of the artist and the influence on his work. It is so important for me to understand the artist’s life as I observe his work.

1 year ago

Enjoyable summary of an artist's life

I learned a lot from this. The discussion of the relationship between the development of abstract art with the popularisation of photography is an interesting one. I would have been interested to hear about the painting I most associate with Cezanne, The Boy In The Red Vest (sic.)

1 year ago
Jonathan Rogan

Thankyou. A very interesting lecture on one of our favourite painters.

9 months ago
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