On January 19, 1839, Paul Cézanne was born in the town of Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. Leaving his studies early, Cézanne moved to Paris in 1861 and began to paint with Camille Pissarro. Consistently rejected by both the Paris Salon and various art schools, Cézanne returned to the south of France in 1870, thus also avoiding conscription in the war with Prussia. There he began to study nature and to experiment with landscape painting. By 1872, Cézanne was again working closely with Pissarro before participating in the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. Cézanne’s paintings were singled out for particularly harsh criticism by the French press. However, by the late 1890s, his paintings began to be noticed by younger artists and he is now considered one of the masters of 19th century painting and his work was extremely influential on many artists of the 20th century. (Read more).
Cézanne’s Viaduct at l’Estaque (Le Viaduct à l’Estaque) from 1882 has been a highlight of the AMAM’s collection since it was acquired in 1950. In this podcast, Oberlin College Professor of Neuroscience Mark Braford discusses the AMAM’s Cézanne painting as an analogy to the way scientists now believe the optical system works.
Cézanne painted at least one other view of the viaduct at l’Estaque that dates between 1879 and 1882, Le Viaduct à l’Estaque in Helsinki. The facture of that painting includes much of the diagonal stroke that characterized Cézanne’s work shortly before the moment of the Oberlin canvas.