Paul Cézanne Still Life with Apples 1895-98

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 501 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

Still Life with Apples demonstrates that the genre of still life can be a vehicle for faithfully representing not only objects but also the appearance of light and space. Painting from nature is not copying the object, Cézanne wrote, it is realizing ones sensations. He consistently drew attention to the quality of the paint and canvasnever aiming for illusion. For example, the edges of the fruit in the bowl are undefined and appear to shift. Rules of perspective, too, are broken; the right corner of the table tilts forward and is not aligned with the left side. Some areas of canvas are left bare, and others, like the drape of the tablecloth, appear unfinished. Still Life with Apples is more than an imitation of lifeit is an exploration of seeing and the very nature of painting.

Gallery label from 2012.
Additional text

“Painting from nature is not copying the object,” Cézanne wrote, “it is realizing one’s sensations.” In this work the artist demonstrates that a still life can be more than an imitation of life—it can be an exploration of seeing and of the very nature of painting. Never aiming for mere illusion, Cézanne consistently drew attention to the quality of the paint and canvas. Here, for example, some areas of canvas are left bare, and others, like the drape of the tablecloth, appear unfinished. Rules of perspective, too, are broken: the right corner of the table tilts forward and is not aligned with the left side.

Gallery label from 2022

“Painting from nature is not copying the object,” Paul Cézanne wrote, “it is realizing one’s sensations.” Still Life with Apples reflects this view and the artist’s steady fascination with color, light, pictorial space, and how we see.

In Still Life with Apples and his many other paintings, Cézanne concentrated on the visual and physical qualities of the paint and canvas and worked to capture the full complexity of how our eyes take in the sights before us. He never aimed for mere illusionism. This is apparent, for example, in the edges of a number of the apples, which appear to be undefined, almost shifting, and in the two sides of the table, which do not align. Cézanne left some areas of canvas bare. Other areas, like the right drape of the bunched tablecloth, appear unfinished.

Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
27 x 36 1/2" (68.6 x 92.7 cm)
Credit
Lillie P. Bliss Collection
Object number
22.1934
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Maurice Gangnat, Paris
Paul Rosenberg, Paris
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York
Dikran K. Kelekian, Paris;
Kelekian Collection, American Art Association, New York, Jan. 30–31, 1922, no. 156, ill.
Lillie P. Bliss, New York;
The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1934). Lillie P. Bliss Collection

Per Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Jayne Warman, and David Nash. "Nature morte”, 1895-98 (FWN 869)." The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné. https://www.cezannecatalogue.com/catalogue/entry.php?id=780 (retrieved Mar 21, 2022).

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