Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"The world of proximate things. . .exists for Cézanne as something to be contemplated rather than used." Meyer Schapiro

How about just a little more time spent thinking about Cézanne this morning before dismantling the still life of apples and oranges in my kitchen to make lunches? It's astonishing to me that once you have a new way of looking at things you can see so much more. Above is Still Life (1883-87).

Art historian Meyer Schapiro talks about the contemplative, detached stance that Cezanne takes and how that can be seen his approach to still life:

Cézanne's still life is distinctive through its distance from every appetite but the asthetic-contemplative. The fruit on the table, the dishes and bottles, are never chosen or set for a meal; they have nothing of the formality of a human purpose. . . .Rarely, if ever, do we find in his paintings
, as in Chardin's, the fruit peeled or cut; rarely are there choice objets d'art or instruments of a profession or hobby. The fruit in his canvases are no longer parts of nature, but though often beautiful in themselves are not yet humanized as elements of a meal or decoration of the home. (Only in his early works, under Manet's influence, does he set up still lifes with eggs, bread, a knife, and a jug of wine.) (p. 14 - 15, Cézanne, Meyer Schapiro)

Here's Still Life with Apples (1895-8). He's right, don't you think? These are objects to arrange, explore, depict in color to create volume, and so on, not to eat
for lunch.

Not at all what Chardin was up to - here's Still Life with Plums (1730).

What's fascinating to me is that Cézanne's contemplative, aesthetic approach to the world of objects extends to his portraits as well. Here's Card Players (1890-2). Off to the kitchen to cut up that real fruit. Please tell me what you think. . . .


  1. Don't cut the fruit--paint it first!

    I suspect that I could look at fruit with new eyes, but still not be able to suggest the immediacy or get the coloring that Cezanne does. Maybe if I look really, really hard! :)

  2. I think Cezanne says you need to see as you see not how the artists in museums see. between you and nature. if you spend many years to realize your sensations what you really see and not what you think you see

  3. Perhaps it's focus. Two of Chardin's plumbs stand out to be eaten. And the glass of water looks as attractive: fresh and here and now. Cezanne doesn't try to impress on us a delicious moment to experience nor caters to our need to fool ourselves. Rather one is invited to take part in the experience of the original observer, to be witness of his process of creation.

  4. Hey, Arik - thanks for your comments - made me go back and look at this again. By the way, just got your picture today of your gorgeous girls. If they weren't so incredibly busy with school and all, they could both do some modeling in their off hours.