Cézanne föddes i Aix-en-Provence och var en av de fyra stora premodernisterna i slutet av 1800-talet och hade en unik betydelse för det tidiga 1900-talets modernism. Han tog sin utgångspunkt i impressionismen, liksom Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh och Paul Gauguin, men sökte ett mindre motivskildrande och mer fundamentalt bildspråk (premodernism - postimpressionism). Cézanne växte upp som son till Philippe Auguste, en välbärgad bankman och gick i skolan tillsammans med författaren Émile Zola, vilken kom att påverka Cézannes beslut att studera måleri. År 1861 reste Cézanne till Paris och skrev in sig vid konstskolan Académie Suisse. Här mötte han Camille Pissarro som skulle få stor betydelse för hans senare utveckling. Under 1860-talet bodde Cézanne omväxlande i Aix och i Paris och fick personlig kontakt med flera av de unga målare som de följande åren skulle bli kända som imressionisterna, bl a Monet, Renoir och Sisley.
His father opposed the pursuit of an artistic career, and in 1858 he persuaded Cézanne to enter law school at the University of Aix-en-Provence. Though Cézanne continued his law studies for several years, he was simultaneously enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he remained until 1861.
Cézanne's explorations of geometric simplification and optical phenomena inspired Picasso, Braque, Metzinger, Gleizes, Gris and others to experiment with ever more complex multiple views of the same subject
and eventually to the fracturing of form. Cézanne thus sparked one of the most revolutionary areas of artistic enquiry of the 20th century, one which was to affect profoundly the development of modern
art. Picasso referred to Cézanne as "the father of us all" and claimed him as "my one and only master!" Other painters such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Kasimir
Malevich, Georges Rouault, Paul Klee, and Henri
Matisse acknowledged Cézanne’s genius.
After the start of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870, Cézanne and his mistress, Marie-Hortense Fiquet, left Paris for L'Estaque, near Marseilles, where he changed themes to predominantly landscapes. They had one son, Paul born 1872. In March 1878, Cézanne's father found out about Hortense and threatened to cut Cézanne off financially, but, in September, he relented and decided to give him 400 francs for his family. Cézanne continued to migrate between the Paris region and Provence until Louis-Auguste had a studio built for him at his home, Bastide du Jas de Bouffan, in the early 1880s. The year 1886 was a turning point for the family. Cézanne married Hortense. In that same year, Cézanne's father died, leaving him the estate purchased in 1859; he was 47.
In 1897 his mother died, an upsetting event but one which made reconciliation with his wife possible. He sold the empty nest at Jas de Bouffan and rented a place on Rue Boulegon, where he built a studio.
The relationship, however, continued to be stormy. He needed a place to be by himself. In 1901 he bought some land along the Chemin des Lauves, an isolated road on some high ground at Aix, and commissioned a studio to be built there (now open to the public). He moved there in 1903. Meanwhile, in 1902, he had drafted a will excluding his wife from his estate and leaving everything to his son. The relationship was apparently off again; she is said to have burned the mementos of his mother.
"Cézanne is one of the greatest of those who changed the course of art history . . . From him we have learned that to alter the coloring of an object is to alter its structure. His work proves without doubt that painting is not—or not any longer—the art of imitating an object by lines and colors, but of giving plastic [solid] form to our nature." (Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger in Du "Cubisme", 1912)
One day, Cézanne was caught in a storm while working in the field. Only after working for two hours under a downpour did he decide to go home; but on the way he collapsed. He was taken home by a passing driver. His old housekeeper rubbed his arms and legs to restore the circulation; as a result, he regained consciousness. On the following day, he intended to continue working, but later on he fainted; the model with whom he was working called for help; he was put to bed, and he never left it. He died a few days later, on 22 October 1906 of pneumonia and was buried at the Saint-Pierre Cemetery in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence. At the age of ten Paul entered the Saint Joseph school in Aix. In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon (now Collège Mignet), where he met and became friends with Émile Zola, who was in a less advanced class