National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit Paul Cézanne (artist)
French, 1839 - 1906
Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit, c. 1900
oil on canvas
overall: 45.8 x 54.9 cm (18 1/16 x 21 5/8 in.) framed: 71.1 x 80 x 8.2 cm (28 x 31 1/2 x 3 1/4 in.)
Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation in memory of Marie N. Harriman
1972.9.5
Not on View
From the Tour: Postimpressionism
Object 7 of 8

Impressionism not only encouraged Cézanne to adopt a brighter palette, but also gave him a way of expressing form. Rather than model three-dimensional shapes by gradually blending shades from dark to light, Cézanne, like the impressionists, gave them form by juxtaposing colors. “There is neither line nor modeling,” he said, “there is only contrast.”

The tipped plate is molded by individual arcs of peachy ivory and cooler blue tones. The shadow that falls below it does not deepen continuously but is a patchwork of blues and complementary rust-colored browns. Rounded fruits, like the flat surfaces of the table, are built up of what Cézanne called “little planes” of color, applied in brushstrokes that echo the faceted sides of the pitcher.

Cézanne painted this same pitcher and table in other canvases. His constant rearranging of these and other props was a way to understand and create structure. The very selection of objects, combining, for example, the roundness of fruits and bowls and the angles of furniture, reflects careful decisions about order and composition. This analytical way of seeing the world, whether the countryside of Provence or the man-made landscape of a still life, had great impact on the next generation of artists. For Picasso, Cézanne was a “mother;” for Matisse, “father to us all.” Yet Cézanne himself stressed that he painted as Pissarro and the impressionists had taught him, from nature and according to his sensations.

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