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Paul Cézanne, the oldest of the Impressionist painters, was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839. While there, he studied law and befriended the great novelist Emile Zola. By 1861, Cézanne had decided to become an artist and joined Zola in Paris, where he met the artists who would later participate in the First Impressionist exhibition in 1874.

In the early 1870's, Cézanne worked closely with Camille Pissarro, from whom he absorbed Impressionist ideas of recording color and light while working outside. By the late 1870's into the 1880's, Cézanne broke with Pissarro and began using parallel brushstrokes that have a rhythmic pattern as if they were building blocks to a pictorial architecture.

By the 1890's, Cézanne was living alone in Aix, where he concentrated on a few subjects: the still life of studio objects, primarily apples, statuary and patterned tablecloths, studies of bathers, and successive views of Mont Saint Victoire. In the late work, color, drawing, modeling, structure, touch are expressions are all carried to new heights. Cézanne developed a pictorial art combining high formality with deeply felt personal expression and a heightened emotional intensity, seen in the landscapes, portraits and still lifes.

By the time of his death in 1906, Cézanne's art was exhibited across Europe. Although he produced no school, his work has influenced directly or indirectly every movement in the 20th century. He was an artist who painted in virtual isolation, yet he is regarded as the giant of modern art.