I've been delving a little into the art of Still Life painting which I really know little about. But today brings me great joy as we can take a small exhibition of the wonderful paintings of Paul Cézanne - who is considered to be the master of Still Life.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), the famed Post-Impressionist who painted a range of subjects in natural and domestic spaces, may now rank among the most celebrated artists of the 19th-century, but he didn’t always have that reputation. In fact, he was relatively obscure in the French art world until the later years of his career. Today, however, Cézanne’s masterful still lifes, landscapes, and portraits are recognized for their ineffable alchemy, which the artist often achieved through the use of skewed perspectives that alienated some critics during his lifetime. 2
Cezanne studied under Pissarro and I showed you a few examples of his still life paintings in the post The Modern View of Still Life Painting.
Pissarro had a major impact on Cézanne’s oeuvre, introducing the artist to plein air painting techniques and shifting his focus to more vibrantly colored rural landscape scenes in the early 1870s. In 1872, the same year Cézanne’s son, Paul, was born, he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, where van Gogh would famously lived and work in the months leading up to his death in 1890. There, Cézanne’s work took on a more Impressionistic style, and the contemplative works he completed in Auvers would be shown at Impressionist exhibitions in Paris in 1874 and 1877.2
In this period, Cézanne also nurtured his interest in still life painting. One of his works from this time, titled Still Life Post, Bottle, Cup and Fruit (1871) as shown below, is reflective of Cézanne’s most recognizable paintings of elegantly arranged, plump apples. In this work, as well as many others from the era, Cézanne emphasized shading, leaving certain areas of canvas exposed where light bounced off a curtain or a jug—a daring gesture at the time.2.
What made Cézanne's still life paintings so different and ironically alive was his technique of having two viewpoints (double perspective) which visually captivates the viewer with the beautifully painted unbalanced parts.3
Cezanne’s paintings of this type are considered a prelude to several art types of the twentieth century including Picasso’s Cubism. The painting below Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier (Jug, Curtain and Fruit Bowl) is one of the most expensive still life ever sold at an auction. 3
The video below examines some of the techniques employed by Cézanne in his Still Lifes. For those of you who paint or are interested in techniques this is an excellent video.