Claim to fame: French Post-Impressionist painter
DOB: January 19, 1839
Date of death: October 22, 1906
Diabetes type: unknown
Paul Cézanne was born on January 19, 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, France. While in school, he enrolled in the free drawing academy in Aix, and attended intermittently for several years. In 1858, he graduated from the College Bourbon, where he had become an intimate friend of his fellow student, Emile Zola. Cézanne entered the law school of the University of Aix in 1859 to placate his father, but abandoned his studies to join Zola in Paris in 1861.
For the next twenty years, Cézanne divided his time between the Midi and Paris. In the capital, he briefly attended the Atelier Suisse with Camille Pissarro, whose art later came to influence his own. In 1862, Cézanne began long friendships with Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. His paintings were included in the 1863 Salon des Refusés, which displayed works not accepted by the jury of the official Paris Salon. The Salon itself rejected Cézanne’s submissions each year from 1864 to 1869.
In 1870, following the declaration of the Franco-Prussian War, Cézanne left Paris for Aix-en-Provence and then nearby L’Estaque, where he continued to paint. He made the first of several visits to Pontoise in 1872, and worked alongside Camille Pissarro. He participated in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874. In general, the Impressionists did not have much commercial success, and Cézanne’s works received the harshest critical commentary. From 1876 to 1879, his works were again rejected for the Salon.
Cézanne showed again with the Impressionists in 1877, in their third exhibition. At that time, Georges Rivière was one of the few critics to support his art. In 1882, the Salon accepted his work for the first and only time. Beginning in 1883, Cézanne resided in the South of France, returning to Paris occasionally. In 1886, he became embittered over what he took to be thinly-disguised references to his own failures in one of Zola’s novels. As a result, he broke off relations with his oldest supporter.
In the same year, he inherited his father’s wealth and finally, at the age of forty-seven, became financially independent, but socially, he remained quite isolated. Cézanne continued living comfortably at his father’s estate, Jas de Bouffan, in Provence. That same year, he married his girlfriend, Hortense, and they had one son, Paul Cézanne, Jr. But Cézanne himself was not comfortable, because his diabetes was causing serious complications, leading to much physical and emotional suffering. His wife and son left and moved to Paris, but Cézanne made an effort to reconcile with his estranged wife in the 1890s, taking her and their son on a trip to Switzerland. The attempted reconciliation failed. Cézanne gave his father’s estate to his wife and son, and turned to painting, expressing himself in his work.
In 1901, he bought land on an isolated road in Provence, and built himself a studio. There, he continued painting, and made many of his most valuable paintings. For many years, Cézanne was known only to his old Impressionist colleagues and to a few younger radical Post-Impressionist artists, including the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and the French painter Paul Gauguin. In 1895, however, Ambroise Vollard, an ambitious Paris art dealer, arranged a show of Cézanne’s work, and over the next few years, promoted them successfully. By 1904, Cézanne had been featured in a major official exhibition.
On October 15, 1906, Cézanne caught a cold while painting outdoors during a heavy rainstorm. Drenched and chilled, he walked toward his home, but collapsed on the road, most likely suffering from a diabetic coma. He was found by the driver of a laundry cart, and was taken home. Paul Cézanne died of pneumonia and complications from diabetes on October 22, 1906 in Provence, and was laid to rest in the old cemetery of his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, France. By the time of his death, Cézanne had attained the status of a legendary figure.