I have seen many of Paul Cezanne’s paintings around the world – in Musee D’Orsy, The Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and recently at the Courtauld Gallery.
It was a pleasant surprise that the Tate Modern, in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, is presenting an exhibition of Paul Cezanne from 5th October 2022 until 12th March 2023. The exhibition shows 80 of his paintings and watercolours, 20 of which have never been shown in the UK.
It was a must therefore that the famous art lover Adrian (my husband) and I visit the exhibition this week. A piece of advice – visit the gallery as early as possible. The exhibition is very well attended and can become overcrowded later in the day.
Paul Cezanne had a fascinating life.
He followed his dream and chose the uncertainty of being an artist instead of a stable career as a lawyer. However, he always had the financial support of his rich father and in order to receive the allowance Cezanne even hid his relationship with his girlfriend (later his wife) from him.
He applied twice to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and was twice rejected. He achieved success very late in life (in his 50s) but he was proclaimed the father of modern art.
He was an awkward figure in a refined Paris but he never forgot his Provincial roots and commuted regularly between Paris and his beloved Province.
I must admit I have always liked the paintings of Cezanne – mostly because of his palette of bold colours of Southern France. He had four main themes in his artistic endeavours: landscapes, still life, bathers and portraits/card players.
1. Knowing all of this, I had never fully grasped how this very grounded, authentic and down to earth artist was actually a modernist, a rule breaker who expressed the complex nature of the modern world.
2. Until I saw with my own eyes the Basket of Apples c.1893 on Tuesday.
3.The composition was created by Cezanne in his studio. A basket full of apples is inclined towards the viewer and some of the apples have fallen on a white table cloth. Next to the basket is a greenish bottle that tilts towards the basket. There is a white plate that contains very carefully structured oval biscuits. Everything looks and sounds boring and unexciting if you do not stop and look deeply.
4. It is a painting of a still life but the objects are moving – apples are falling toward the viewer, the cloth is so versatile and the bottle is leaning. All of the objects are on a moving towards the viewer table. It is a strange table – a table and not a table, some strange blocks of yellow and purple-green colours. And the apples – some are clearly falling, others appear stable but they are also falling and some are securely tacked in the cloth.
5. There is a group of apples on the right side of the picture. Next to them, but a bit distant, there is another apple that looks different than the apples in the group – the rebel, the outsider. The greenish bottle looks tall and strong but leans for support from the basket which is tilted. There is some anxiety, some nervousness in the white cloth and especially in the little apple in the middle of the picture. In the background and a bit isolated there is a plate with biscuits. The plate is white and oval and corresponds with the oval apples and the white cloth. It contains a structure but if you look closely the right side of the structure is not very secure. And what about the black path in the middle of the white cloth like a channel in which the objects will fall towards the viewer?
Cezanne created his own reality that expressed the modern world and mentality.