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Five stories about Paul Cezanne, which all the same won't help understand him better

  17 
They were afraid of Paul Cézanne, as he was rather mercurial person. His models froze during posing sessions not daring to move; his fellow artists who wanted to introduce someone to Cézanne, prepared and warned the newcomer: Paul is shy and impulsive, he is not easy to communicate with new people, he may not even appear at the meeting, but he is firstly a brilliant artist, and secondly, you will love him anyway. And this "anyway" usually worked.

"No one get his hooks into me!"

Once the boy, who was sliding by down the banister, gave little Paul a vicious kick in the rear. "The kick was so strong and unexpected that ever since I have been obsessed by fear that something of the kind might happen again; hence my uncanny horror of even the slightest physical contact", said Cézanne.

The young artist Émile Bernard was a friend and a big fan of Cézanne; he made the best photos of his mentor in Aix. Once they were walking together, when suddenly Emile Bernard steadied him as he stumbled. Cézanne flew into a rage. "No one dares to touch me… I won’t let anybody get his hooks into me. Never! Never!" cried Cézanne frantically. He turned and ran to the workshop, muttering "I won’t let them hook me". In the evening, Cézanne came back with an apology.

In the photo: Paul Cézanne in Pontoise, 1877.

Painting for the first comer

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under his arm. Passing through the Saint-Lazare station, he ran into a stranger who asked him to show his picture. The pale, skinny young man was shocked to see the landscape
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unfurled on the wall: an unprecedented green colour, the freshness and the manner of the strokes astonished him. "If you like my trees that much, take them!" Cézanne suggested. "I have nothing to pay," protested the new fan to the artist. Cézanne gave the picture for nothing and both left the station absolutely happy.

This story is told by Auguste Renoir's son Jean in his book about his father. And the story had a sequel. Right from the station, the happy Paul went to the workshop rented by Renoir and Monet together. "I have a fan!" he declared solemnly from the beginning. And his first comer turned out to be the composer and musician Ernest Cabaner, the ever beggar driven out of all the cafés where the tried to play his compositions.

Cabaner and Cézanne would meet again in one of the artistic salons, and three years later the artist provided his first admirer, who was already seriously ill, with a permanent pension, having paid for this with several his artworks. Above the bed of the dying Cabaner, the painting Bathers at rest was still hanging.
Paul Cezanne. Bathers at rest
Bathers at rest
1877, 82×100 cm

"Rodin shook my hand!"

Cézanne has always had few real fans. And he got used to distrusting praises: he screamed, broke down from laughter to tears, sincerely thanked and immediately violently accused of flattery.

In 1894, when the critic Gustave Geffroy wrote a long positive article about the artist from Aix, Claude Monet decided to introduce them. The preparation was serious. Monet sent letters to the critic in order to prepare him for the meeting: "What a pity that this person has not received more support in life! He is a true artist, suffering from self-doubt. He needs to be encouraged, and he highly appreciated your article!" Monet wrote letters to the artist and arranged his arrival in Giverny. Georges Clemenceau, Octave Mirbeau and Auguste Rodin were also invited.

Despite the fears of the guests and the owner of the house in Giverny, Cézanne came over there. He was cheerful, sometimes even too harsh and sincere. "Monsieur Rodin is not at all proud, he shook my hand! And he has so many rewards!" Cézanne shared his joy with tears in his eyes. At the end of the dinner, everyone would go out to see Paul off to the hotel where he stopped — he would kneel in front of Rodin in the middle of the dusty road and thank him again for the handshake. What an eccentric Cézanne!
  • Cézanne and Pissarro in Pontoise, 1873
  • Cézanne and Pissarro in Auvers, 1874

Apples on a cherry tree

When Cézanne was dissatisfied with a picture, he simply threw it out the window. Gardener Auguste Blanc recalled later that old olives growing under the windows of his workshop were hung with unfinished still lifes. Sometimes Paul remembered some of his not entirely hopeless sketches hanging in the garden for several months, and they returned to the easel again.

"Son, why don’t we take the Apples from the cherry tree. I think I’ll still manage to do them good," he asked his son when he brought Marchand Ambroise Vollard from Paris to Aix to provide him with new paintings.

The grey sky

However, Vollard could hardly be confused with apples on cherry trees — he realized that he had met his artist. While Cézanne forgave Vollard for tricks that were not permissible for others. Usually, he threw brushes, cursed and stopped working on a portrait if the model distracted. Neither the seduction of the first beauty of Provence Marie Gasquet, nor the close friendship with the husband of Alexandrine Zola convinced Cézanne — he refused to continue their portraits, because the first one dozed off, and the second one dared to turn her head at someone’s joke. Asleep during the session, Vollard was forgiven.

Very tired after the morning session, Cézanne did not use to paint in the afternoon. But things were different with the Vollard’s portrait. Cézanne looked out the window and told his son: "The sky is turning light grey. Go have a bite, run to Vollard and bring him to me!" - "Aren't you afraid to overstrain Vollard?" - "What does it matter if the sky is grey?"
And Vollard posed as much as the artist required. There would be more than one session, the portrait would be almost finished. And then one day Cézanne suddenly left Paris for Aix, quitting the work. "I like how the starchy shirt looks," he grumbled.

Sources: Henri Perruchot, Cézanne; Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life; Jean Renoir "Renoir".
Title illustration: Paul Cezanne. Self-portrait in a white turban.
Author: Anna Sidelnikova