Gauguin's career as an artist began when he saw an exhibit by the Impressionist painters in Paris. He immediately began buying paintings by artists including Claude Monet,
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and perhaps most importantly, the unofficial leader of the Impressionists, Pissarro.
As a collector, Gauguin owned paintings by Cezanne, but through Pissarro, he became friends with the celebrated painter. This friendship with, and admiration of,
Cezanne would prove to be among the most influential in Gauguin's career.
Cezanne was a talented artist and friends with important painters, writers, and critics. His work was collected and praised by the art world. As Gauguin was starting to devote his life to art, he looked to Cezanne and was influenced in many ways by the successful painter. In Gauguin's art you can see the effect that Cezanne had on him. Large blocks of color were staples of Cezanne's art that also became featured in Gauguin's. As a collector and owner of many paintings by Cezanne, Gauguin studied the paintings. He saw the way Cezanne used his brush and began to use his "constructive brushstroke" style. Instead of applying thick paint of various colors in the Impressionist manner, Gauguin and Cezanne painted smoother tones with a subtle gradation. Like Cezanne, Gauguin painted with a certain realness, showing scenes of real life. His still lifes especially are Cezanne like, showing similar small diagonal brushstrokes to depict the fruit.
Gauguin admired and respected Cezanne immensely, and the two painted together along with Pissarro. Although friends and colleagues, the respect may not have been mutual. Cezanne said that he was afraid Gauguin would steal his "sensation."
It is evident how much Gauguin respected Cezanne by the subject of some of his paintings. In Portrait of a Woman In Front of a Still Life Gauguin shows a woman, sitting with her hands down, one at her side and one in her lap, with a still life by Cezanne in the background. Through x-rays art historians have been able to examine the painting and see the changes Gauguin made as he was working. In earlier stages the woman had her hands folded in her lap, like women in many portraits by Cezanne. Other painters of the time saw the respect that Gauguin had for Cezanne. In 1900 Maurice Denis painted Homage to Cezanne, showing a group of artist's gathered around an easel holding a painting by Cezanne, owned by Gauguin. To further hit the point, in the background he showed another painting, this time by Gauguin.