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Paul Cézanne - Apples and oranges

by Alexandra Tuschka

This still life is anything but "still". Already the diagonal of the table rising to the right, on which apples and oranges as well as a nicely painted jug have found a place, brings improbable dynamics into play. This is joined by the colorful and wildly gathered tablecloths. Even the white tablecloth is no longer neatly spread out, but has been gathered just as spontaneously. The background appears as a matte brown.

This spontaneous impression, however, was no accident. Cézanne's contemporaries handed down how he chose the composition carefully; fruits and objects through the area already and rearranged until everything fit. Several versions of this arrangement also exist. By the painter's choice of apples and oranges, we are dealing with two types of fruit of similar round shape, but still different shades of color. Also, despite the abstraction, Cézanne manages to embody the different feel of both fruits. He takes away the clear outlines of the orange, making it appear softer, while the apples in the foreground still convey a harder impression through clearer contours. The different shades of color also set the fruits apart from each other.

In this work we can already recognize cubist approaches, because Cézanne also neglects the strict reproduction of the "correct" perspective and prefers to focus on the perception of the object from a holistic aspect. The many doublings and different views of the two objects "Orange" and "Apple" make this possible. So you can see this game also when comparing the jug and the plate. We see the jug only slightly from above, but the plate more drastically. In reality, this would probably be threatened by falling down.

The choice of color and the contrast of the fruits on the white tablecloth make the work extremely vivid. The choice of two fruits allow for intense color play with orange, green and red. The ceiling also seems to reflect the colors in some places. The oriental tapestry that makes up the left part of the work is a common motif and was part of the inventory of Cézanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence. The fabric on the right is also proven to have been used several times by the painter. And the white tablecloth also fascinated the painter as a motif. Indeed, Cézanne declared, "All my youth I wanted to paint this, this tablecloth of fresh snow."

Still life emerged as a genre in its own right in the 17th century, the so-called "golden age" of the Netherlands, and experienced a revival with the Impressionists. Cézanne became increasingly involved with the still life later in life. With his still lifes, he is considered a renewer of this genre and a harbinger of Cubism.

Paul Cézanne - Apples and Oranges

Oil on canvas, ca. 1899, 74 x 93 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris


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