Paul Cezanne, who was one of the most influential and powerful painters of the postimpressionist phase, led the way to twentieth-century cubism and abstract art. He was born in Aix-en-Provence, the son of a prosperous banker. It was his close friend, the novelist Emile Zola, who steered him to art and persuaded him to study in Paris. He was at first closely allied with his fellow painter, Pissarro and other impressionists, but gradually drew apart from them in his painstaking and dedicated search for a new style. In 1886 Cezanne retired to Provence, where, because he was financially independent, he could totally concentrate on his art. The careful balance of tones, building form with color into almost geometrical (indeed, almost cubist) compositions, distinguishes his work. A firm grounding in the great French classical tradition turned him away from the romantic and impressionist toward the abstract art of the future. Cezanne, particularly in his later years, was a solitary man, not an intellectual, and he wrote very little. His watercolors are often as masterful as his oil paintings.