As a masterful writer, Emile Zola possessed the capability of creating exemplary works of art in relation to literature. Most of his narratives delved on doom, gloom as well as naturalist tragedy. Nonetheless, the most notable of his efforts is evident in the novel, The Masterpiece. The aforementioned book depicts Zola’s predisposition towards the art of painting. This is because the author, with his uncanny writing aptitude, constructs a fictional painter, Claude Lantier, who is the protagonist of this Rougon-Macquart sequel. In this case, however, the focus is not on Zola’s exemplary literary skill in the respective novel, but rather on renowned painters who influenced him to create a fictional painter, who seems authentic enough to the arty reader and visual artist. Specifically, a look into historical artists such as Cezanne, Delacroix, Courbet and Bougereau offers a potential idea of some of the painters that may have inspired Zola’s ideas into creating his fictional painter.

Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne is renowned for his considerable contribution to the Impressionist movement between the 19th century and the 20th century. Much of his work, even though realist in his form, exhibited the use of vivid color palettes that further defined his work as rather imaginative. However, in the beginning, Cezanne’s works mostly comprised depictions of landscape figures, which were rather massive and heavy. Nonetheless, as time passed, his compositions changed to incorporate a light, airy artistic style that complimented his interest in direct observation. Furthermore, his later paintings highlight the focus Cezanne had on interpreting the viewed world realistically as possible. Hence, in order to impose this naturalist form, Cezanne utilized recurrent exploratory brushstrokes in order to create realistic and complex objects. Undeniably, Cezanne’s artwork delved on impressionism based on the way it depicted the objects he painted in a natural way without the use of surrealistic elements.

The influence of Cezanne on Zola’s creation of the fictional painter is, indeed, evident. Accordingly, Zola focused on developing a painter that abided by naturalism; a trait that the writer explored in all of his books. For instance, in The Masterpiece, the fictional painter (Claude Lantier) creates painting that shows real subjects situated within real locations and places. This preference relates to Cezanne who also engaged in the representation of landscapes and objects within real places. For example, artworks such as Mount Sainte-Victoire and Still Life with a Curtain represent some of the realism-based compositions that the artist created. Additionally, Cezanne also provides a historical background to Zola’s fictional painter. Still on the book, the painter possesses a relationship with a young writer (Sandoz), who created numerous articles that reflected newest methods of painting as well as several artworks. The relationship between the two provides a historical background for the fictional painter and a semi-biography for Zola.

Eugene Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix also provides profound influence for the construction of Zola’s fictional painter. Credited as the leader of impressionism, Delacroix also used a similar painting technique to Cezanne. The utilization of expressive brushstrokes enabled the artist to construct paintings bordering on naturalism. Nonetheless, the connection with Zola is in accordance to the ascent of realism, impressionism and naturalism in painting. Accordingly, most of Zola’s works concentrate on the rise of these similar yet new movements in the art world. Correspondingly, Delacroix’s introduction of the expressive brushstrokes comprises the major painting mechanisms that eventually modify the art of Impressionists henceforth. By offering such a historical background, Zola is able to develop a fictional painter that also engages in the utilization of such techniques, which undeniably, make him an exceptional painter regardless of the misfortunes of his past and general life.