Skip to main content
Monet to Matisse: Masterworks of French Impressionism is on view now!

Paul Cézanne spent most of his career painting in solitude and obscurity. It wasn’t until late in his life that he achieved critical success, and charted a path forward for a new style of art in the twentieth century.

Portrait of Paul Cézanne
Portrait of Paul Cézanne, 1861

Like many young painters, Paul Cézanne struggled with his family over his dreams of becoming an artist. Growing up in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France, the aspiring painter found himself constantly at odds with his father, who wanted him to study law.

However, by 1861, Cézanne had convinced his father to finance his first trip to Paris, where he joined his friend, writer Emile Zola, and met the artists who would become the Impressionists. Although Paris would never be Cézanne’s home, it provided him with the ideas and inspiration to create his greatest works.

Cézanne spent most of his career painting landscapes, still lifes, and portraits in solitude and obscurity in Aix-en-Provence. But in the mid-1890s, Paris dealers, collectors, and a generation of younger painters discovered Cézanne’s work and finally appreciated its brilliant emphasis on pattern and structure.

By 1900, when he painted Trees and Rocks, Near the Château Noir, Cézanne had unexpectedly become one of the more influential artists of his age. His austere palette and taut, interlocking brushwork, so evident in the present painting, revealed the very bones of painting composition. It also charted a path to Cubist abstraction, which would dominate early twentieth-century art.