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Painting Modern Life

Explore how early modern artists forged new directions in painting.


Still Life with Apples

Paul Cézanne
(French, 1839–1906)

1898. Oil on canvas, 27 x 36 1/2" (68.6 x 92.7 cm)

“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.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

Technique used to depict volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface, as in a painted scene that appears to extend into the distance.

Resembling or using the simple rectilinear or curvilinear lines used in geometry.

The shape or structure of an object.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.

Some Perspective
Optics fascinated Cézanne. He tried to distill naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials: the cone, the cube, the sphere. He used layers of color to build up surfaces, and outlined his forms for emphasis. His deep study of geometry in painting led to his becoming a master of perspective. Cézanne had little public success and was repeatedly rejected by the Paris Salon. In his final years and particularly after his death, younger artists, among them Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, discovered and drew from his work.