From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914


How did Cézanne “astonish Paris with an apple”?

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) is considered one of the most significant Post-Impressionists and an artist who made a lasting impact on modern art. His earlier work was in line with the Impressionists and even influenced by Romanticism, but as he matured, he began to emphasize form over narrative. This means that Cézanne became more concerned with creating an awareness of the physical qualities of his paintings than with telling any particular stories. Cézanne’s still lifes, such as Still Life with Apples (c. 1875–1876), use color, rather than outline, to create form. He didn’t always use a brush, but often applied paint to the canvas directly with his palette knife. Cézanne wanted to push the boundaries of art, wanted to make an impression, to “astonish Paris with an apple” as he said. The apples in Still Life with Apples are an arrangement, much like the undefined smudges of Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold. Brightly colored against a darker background, the apples have a life of their own and engage the viewer by bobbing in an abstract, gravity-free space. Cezanne’s apples are not mere fruit, but are painted forms that morph the still life into an association of structures built by color, rather than subject.


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