In 1869 she met Cézanne at an art school in Paris called Académie Suisse. This art school was used by a number of major artists as a place to meet each other and to paint the models who worked there. Fiquet"s main job was as a bookseller or bookbinder, but she combined this with part-time work as a model.
They started a relationship and when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1871, they left Paris together for L"Estaque in the south of France.
Afraid of offending his father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, a well-to-do banker, and compromising his allowance, he went to great lengths to conceal his liaison with Fiquet. Their one child, Paul (1872—1947) inherited his father"s entire estate.
Hortense may have provided inspiration for a character in L"Œuvre, an Émile Zola novel which appeared in serial form the year before the Cézannes" marriage. Zola was a friend to Cézanne since their schooldays.
In the novel, Christine, also a model, marries a painter.
However the book is not biographical in the strict sense. While the fictional painter bears some relation to Cézanne, Christine poses nude, a far cry from Cézanne"s chaste portraits of Fiquet, and more reminiscent of Le déjeuner sur l"herbe by Édouard Manet.