MORTAL VICTORY by Lawrence Hanson


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The life of Paul Cezanne, perhaps the most gifted and influential painter of the nineteenth century, reads like an apotheosis of frustration: his uneasy childhood and school days, his inability to communicate with the taciturn father whom he loved, his consistent difficulty in obtaining critical acceptance, and his great wound suffered at the hands of his one trusted friend, Emile Zola. All these events hardly foretell the reputation he later earned and still holds as one of the uncontested geniuses of art. In biographizing Cezanne, one must inevitably speak of Zola, the man who encouraged the floundering young provincial to embark on a painting career, who appropriated Cezanne's critical appraisal of Manet and by publishing Cezanne's ideas became noted as an outstanding art critic; the Zola who early lost faith in Paul's ability, who refused to defend him when he could have and chose instead to make him the central character in his novel L'oeuvre, the portrait of an artistic failure. This, blow dealt when Cezanne was forty-seven-years-old, did not diminish his love for Zola but did strengthen the deep tendency toward the hermitic life, a tendency bred in his early years by his relationship to a forbidding father. So in awe was Cezanne of the elder Cezanne that he kept secret from him his marriage and the birth of his child for most of the old man's life. Cezanne's story is a portrait of torment, it also is a depiction of strength tempered by vision and unflinching integrity. Lawrence Hanson and his wife have written nine biographies, including lives of Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Toulosue-Lautrec. In his life of Cezanne he approaches his subject with depth and sensitivity, conveying a full appreciation of the man and the artist.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1960
Publisher: Holt