Post-Impressionism

Fast and Yummy: All We Know About Cezanne’s Fruit

Zuzanna Stańska 9 August 2021 min Read

Paul Cezanne was widely misunderstood by his contemporaries. This shy man, who was a precursor of Cubism and Fauvism, loved to paint fruit (in art history called “still lifes”). This is all we know about Cezanne’s fruit:

1. Still Lifes Were His Favorite

cezanne's fruits: Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Scull, 1898, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Skull, 1898, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Most of Cezanne’s paintings are still lifes. They were made in a studio using very simple stuff like a cloth, a vase, or a bowl. Or even a skull.

2. In the Beginning Apples Looked Like Apples

cezanne's fruits: Paul Cezanne, Apples, 1878-79, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Paul Cezanne, Apples, 1878-79, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

These Apples are among his early work. They look quite real – this will change later.

3. Then, Apples Started to Look Like Flat Balls

cezanne's fruits: Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, ca. 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, ca. 1895, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

His works are both traditional and modern. Cezanne’s fruit became quite abstract with time – later they were just splotch of color enclosed by a line. Like here, they don’t have any purpose except being decorative objects.

 4. For Him Nature Should Be Like a Sphere

cezanne's fruits: Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Oranges, 1899, Musée d'Orsay
Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Oranges, 1899, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

Cézanne was interested in the simplification of naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials: he wanted to “treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone.” An apple or orange would be a sphere obviously.

5. He Created an Illusion of Depth

cezanne's fruits: Paul Cezanne, Still Life with a Curtain, 1895, Hermitage Museum
Paul Cezanne, Still Life with a Curtain, 1895, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Though a precursor of Cubism, Cezanne often created an illusion of depth – like in this painting, with the curtain at the back and the white sheets in the front.

6. He Mixed Perspectives

cezanne's fruits: Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Peaches, 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Peaches, 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

Here we can see the beginning of a new system of representation, one that Cézanne would subsequently develop, and that would open the way to Cubism. While the fruit on the table is shown frontally, the perspective of the table is much more raked: in the same composition, the objects are painted from several different viewpoints.