Former banking apprentice and law student Paul Cézanne was said to have the genius of a painter, but no prospects of really becoming one, as he was always easily discouraged by small difficulties. Thus spoke his pal Emile Zola, a classmate from Aix. Yeah, right, wisecrack! Most of us know what Cézanne became. Those who don't will not read this anyway, so no need to explain.
The Taschen series on artists combines biographic texts with reproductions of the major works, for illustration. Obviously, the small format imposes restrictions and reduces quality. The concept is convincing anyway. One could say that the result is relatively excellent.
The implementation in this case here is not overwhelming. It seems a little as if there was little system in the way that the text and the illustrations were arranged. That can make reading at times a little tedious. You need to flip back and forth, as the pictures are rarely where they are in reference to the text. However the effect of that wanes by about half way through, probably because one gets used to the facts.
The text gives us an outline of the man's life and his position in the art world. Every biography of anybody is also a piece of history, even if the subject is a hermit. Some outstanding facts of this life: he had a rich father but was dirt poor until he was 47. He needed financial support from his friend Zola, who had become a literary star. He had a wife and a son, but he kept them secret from his father and lived on a bachelor allowance. Selling paintings was not a source of income for a very long time. Nobody bought. The critics ridiculed him, but he persisted and is now widely seen as one of the greatest in the 19th century. So much for Zola's predictive powers in the arts.
The main focus of the text is on explaining the developing style and contents of PC's work. What a pity that the effect of the large landscapes and still lives gets a little lost on the small pages. Still a worth- while general introduction to Cézanne.