Happy Birthday to Paul Cézanne, Cranky Genius

Paul Cézanne, referred to by Picasso as "the father of us all" and by Matisse as "a kind of benevolent god of painting," was not quite as tender-hearted as these monikers would suggest. Well-known as Cézanne is for the influence his seminal paintings would have over later generations of modernist painters, he was equally infamous for his temper and pugnacity. "Convincing Cézanne of something is like persuading the towers of Notre Dame to execute a quadrille," wrote his close friend, the writer Émile Zola. His student, painter Émile Bernard, claimed that although Cézanne was "an excellent man," he was also "distrustful...misanthropic...cranky and strange." Meanwhile, Cézanne, who once threw a rock through an in-progress painting of his favored subject, Mont-Sainte-Victoire, merely claimed, "I have very strong sensations."

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