Cézanne's endless quest to parallel nature's harmony

After all the analysis of his apples, his bathers, that mountain, his paintings still electrify at a major show in Philadelphia

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"I have perhaps come too early," an aging Paul Cézanne told a young artist. "I was the painter of your generation more than my own." It was not until 1895 that Cézanne, at age 56, was given a full-scale one-man show in Paris. Now, the artist whom Picasso called "my one and only master" is being honored at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, beginning May 30, with a sprawling and demanding show of some 100 oil paintings and 70 works on paper. He was a painter of the Impressionist era but moved beyond that style. Monet, Renoir and Degas bought his paintings, but the public and the critics sneered at his work. Still, nothing deterred his unsinkable faith in his own genius. Living as a near recluse in Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne labored away, producing more than 950 oils and close to 650 watercolors.

Smithsonian writer Helen Dudar travels to Aix to bear witness to the natural beauty of the artist's surroundings and garner some insight into the mind of this great master.

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