Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Post-Impressionism (pt. 2)

Through still lifes the artist was allowed to paint the same subjects over and over to perfect his work.  Cézanne did not even begin to seriously paint figures and landscapes until later on in his career.  His still life paintings were a way in which he could perfect his craft and develop his style.  Again, like the Impressionists, we see an emphasis here on the technique of painting, not necessarily the artistic inspiration of a particular subject matter or theme.  Artists in the Modern Era are redefining paintings, and this lends an objectivity to their work.  No great Classical scene is being shown here; no important person or significant biblical scene—not even an implied moral message—is being shown here.  Cézanne's Still Life is simply a study of fruits, bottles, and tablecloths.  The artist, nevertheless, famously said, "Je veux conquérir Paris avec une pomme" ("With an apple I will astonish Paris").  In this Still Life we see a peppermint bottle, glass carafe, and empty wine cup along with various fruits on the tablecloth of a mostly hidden table.  The cloth appears massive as it falls off the table and swirls around the objects.  The whites and blues of the wall, bottles, and tablecloth all generate a cool temperature of color within the painting, but Cézanne wants us to look at the fruit; these he has painted with vivid reds and yellows that instantly attract our eyes.  The artist has painted these so starkly in order to communicate their sense of mass and volume to the viewer.  The tablecloth, after all, is flat (or would actually be if it were lain out straight, instead of bunched up on the table), and so is the wall in the background.  These objects are therefore not as "full" as the fruit.  The glasses on the table are empty (through one we can even see another fruit behind it).  The only items in this still life which bear weight, either literal or figurative in this case, are the apples, peaches, tomatoes, and lemons, because they have mass and are fully three-dimensional objects of space and volume.  They are solid.  So the artist gives them rich colors to define their presence in the scene.  And don't they look stunning?

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