image: Cezanne in Provence image: National Gallery of Art image: Cezanne in Provence

The Artist's Father, Reading L'Evenement, 1866, oil on canvas National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
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Motif: Early Years in Aix and Paris

But you know all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside....I see superb things, and I must resolve to paint only outdoors.
Cézanne, October 1866

Cézanne was born and raised in Aix, a sleepy provincial town. As a youth, he and his friends—including the future novelist Émile Zola—regularly explored the countryside outside of Aix, swimming in rivers, clambering along rocky canyons, and resting under the shade of tall pines. This experience forged an affective bond with the Provençal landscape that resonated in Cézanne's work throughout his career.

Cézanne studied law for a short time before leaving for Paris in 1861 to devote himself to art. His energetic early style, seen in The Artist's Father, Reading L'Événement, 1866, featured a dark heavily impastoed paint applied roughly with a palette knife. This rugged manner reflected the artist's initial debt to Gustave Courbet, whose work he encountered in Paris, as well as a typically Provençal appreciation for vigorous paint handling.

Cézanne learned how to paint in Paris; however, he never adopted the city as his own. From the beginning he returned repeatedly to Provence, finding solace and inspiration in its familiar countryside. Eventually, in the 1880s, he resettled in there. He continued to travel outside of the region, but Provence remained his centere of gravity until his death in 1906.

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