|The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”, 1866|
France in Cézanne's time was in a state of turmoil that extended into every sphere of life. Politically the nation shifted dramatically from republic to dictatorship and back to republic. In 1851, the elected President of the Second Republic, Louis Napoleon, assumed the title of Emperor. In many ways he was an enlightened ruler, and his reign was prosperous. He built up an extensive railroad system, he had Paris redesigned with broad boulevards and spacious plazas, and he arranged international expositions to display the remarkable achievements in science and engineering. The artistic world flourished, too, under the leadership of such creative personalities as the composers Offerback and Gounod, the novelists Flaubert, Merimee and George Sand, and painters Delacroix, Ingres, Daumier, Courbet and the revolutionary Manet.
But Louis Napoleon's reign came to a disastrous end in 1870 when he declared war on Prussia and was humiliated by a swift defeat. A period of near anarchy followed. When peace was restored, the new Republican government was forced to contend with political instability and shattering scandals abroad and at home.
Though Cézanne lived in this work, he was never a part of it.
-The Time-Life Library, The World of Cezanne: 1839-1906