Room 43

Van Gogh and Cézanne

Vincent van Gogh worked as an art dealer and preacher before becoming a painter. He left his native Holland for France, and after two years in Paris, moved south to Arles.

This visit of 1888–9 produced some of his most powerful pictures, including Sunflowers and Van Gogh’s Chair, informed by the colour and light of Provence. He quarrelled with Paul Gauguin, who lived and worked with him in autumn 1888, and he later suffered from mental illness.

Paul Cézanne was born in Provence and, obsessed by its dramatic landscapes, returned there throughout his life. It was in Paris, however, that he sought to make his name. Having exhibited there twice with the Impressionists, he gradually distanced himself from their technique.

Cézanne started to place more emphasis on structure and solidity in his art by using colour rather than light to convey forms. In his later years, his innovative compositions won the respect of younger artists, including Pablo Picasso, and fundamentally affected the course of 20th-century art.