Cezanne's artwork can be broken up into four blocks, or periods, each with their own defining characteristics. The first period, deemed the dark period, lasted from 1861 to 1870. Cezanne was influenced by the young and rising Impressionist group but didn't quite 'fit in' with them. Socially inept and given to bouts of depression, Cezanne's paintings during the dark period are characterized by dark colors and heavy use of black which contrasted highly with his earlier water colors around 1859.
Also during this period, influenced by Courbet, Cezanne began to use a palette knife. He painted mostly portraits and later called this series une couillarde. English artist Lawrence Gowing [1918-1991] once wrote that Cezanne's palette knife . phase "was not only the invention of modern expressionism, although it was incidentally that; the idea of art as emotional ejaculation made its first appearance at this moment"
The second period that Cezanne's work can be broken into is his Impressionist period. [1870-1878]
During this period Cezanne regarded himself as a pupil under fellow artist Camille Pissaro. Under Pissaro's influence Cezanne began to paint more landscapes, abandoning dark colors and roducing much brighter works. He exhibited in the first (1874) and third (1877) Impressionist shows where his works were often received with hilarity, sarcasm and outrage. Critic Louis Leroy said Cezannes portait of art collector Victor Chocquet was "the color of an old boot" and "might give [a pregnant woman] a shock and cause yellow fever in the fruit of her womb before its entry into the world
During his third period, or mature period [1878-1890], Cezanne began to paint multiple copies of the same thing over and over experimenting with different techniques and breaking down the forms. He painted several "Bathers" as well as several landscapes of Mount Sainte-Victoire. He used different colors to represent the depths of objects in space and geometric shapes to define nature. This use of geometry would continue to ultimately culminate in the first forms of Cubism. Many famous artist list Cezanne's works as a large influence and both Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso have been quoted saying Cezanne is "the father of us all." Also during this period he began to paint still life paintings, mostly consisting of apples, baskets and things of the such. In these paintings Cezanne chose to convey the passage of time in a very peculiar way: by painting from two different angles. This disjointed perspective gave Cezanne's works balance because of their unbalance. These paintings were especially important in making the leap from Impressionism to Cubism.
Cezanne's fourth and final period [1890-1905] was marked by long periods of solitary confinement as troubling events in his personal life led him to delve further into his painting. With the onset of diabetes in 1890 Cezanne's personally became destabilized causing him to strain personal relationships and alienate others. In 1897 his mother died allowing him to reconcile with his wife. The relationship between the two continued to be tumultuous however. In 1906 Cezanne died of pneumonia.