'With an apple, I will astonish Paris." ~ Paul Cezanne
This bold statement by the Master Artist Paul Cezanne seems a bit cocky and maybe even gloating, but that is exactly what he did.
At the time when Cezanne was painting, Impressionism was all the rage with its capture of light and shimmering movement. Cezanne set out to reinvigorate the Paris art scene with his novel approach. Rather than dabbing at the canvas with the thin, visible brush strokes of his contemporaries, Cezanne attacked his canvas with a palette knife, creating a structure and framework that focused on form and perspective.
Taking a relatively humble subject - a basket of apples - and elevating those everyday objects to a higher significance is truly art. And with that basket of apples he did astonish Paris.
Cezanne is credited with bridging the crossover from Impressionism to Modernism. Painters like Picasso and Matisse revered his work. He was called a Master of Perspective. He spent his career obsessed with visual perception - how we see what we see.
Still lifes were considered a trivial form of painting in Cezanne's time. But that minor importance was likely what drew him to it. With this neglected form, he was able to push the boundaries and create new conventions. I am sure that he was scoffed at initially, but his commitment to painting these everyday scenes won people over to him. He recorded the world as he saw it and the world liked what he saw.
This month, the Art Bead Scene is featuring Cezanne's famed The Basket of Apples (1893) painting for our inspiration.
At first glance, this arrangement looks simple: a bottle of wine, a toppled fruit basket, a crumpled tablecloth, a stack of cookies. When you look at this painting, you register those images and think that nothing is remarkable about it. But upon closer inspection, you notice that the painting has some oddities.
Everything seems a bit tipsy in this painting. The edges of the table are not consistent, as if you were looking at different angles depending on the side of the table you are seeing. The bottle is about to fall, the apples look like they might topple off the tippy table at any second, the cookies seem to be almost hovering on the plate. And everything has a sort of wonky quality to it. What is going on here?
The still life appears to be viewed from multiple angles, not a single point of reference as his predecessors would have done. It is as if you are moving around the table as you view it, with the planes of the table's geometry shifting as you do so. In fact, there are no right angles in this at all. It is the unbalanced parts that give this painting its balance. Perhaps Cezanne was simply shifting his perspective when he painted it, like setting up his easel in a different spot as he came to capture the image day by day, or even minute by minute.
There is a really delightful multi-media presentation of how this many have come to be told for the benefit of children through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Check out Cezanne's Astonishing Apples and the children's story An Apple A Day. I can just envision him painstakingly arranging the tableau, and then progressively eating his way through his subject matter as he went!
In the past, artists painted from a fixed space and perspective, as if a snapshot recording the moment, forever trapping the subject in a frozen state, and the viewer along with them. But with this new approach, with the shifting perspective, Cezanne almost makes the image come more alive, like a moving video camera image.It makes me feel a bit woozy when I consider it this way!
For the Simple Truths Sampler Club in 2013 I have been focusing on using the Art Bead Scene inspiration art be my guide. (You can see a retrospective of the first 10 months of the year here.) What I first noticed was the shapes and colors of the fruit. I didn't even consider the odd arrangement. So for my Simple Truths Sampler Club for November, I focused on the colors and texture.
I recently learned some polymer clay tricks from Heather Powers at her Inspired by Nature retreat. Achieving a translucent, shimmering effect is what I was going for, since it feels like the light and shadows on the fruit make it so alive, and this technique was perfect. I have never really tried making beads before, but I had a whole stash of solid bead cores that just right for this challenge. So I fashioned a set of beads for the Club, with two hand-faceted rondelles paired with a stockier little barrel bead, that reminded me of 'them apples', with part of a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of the book Wishes Fulfilled, Mastering the Art of Manifesting (which sounds like a great book!)
"Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change."
I think that Master Cezanne would approve of the method and the message.
I am slowly moving my listings from my Etsy shop over to my webstore, www.tesoritrovati.com. I will be selling the custom, made-to-order items in the webstore and keeping the one-offs and samples in my Etsy shop. As things are selling out in the Etsy shop, I will not be replacing them. So in case you are interested, these beads as shown are available in my new webstore, www.tesoritrovati.com
A set of two faceted rondelles: $14
A single barrel bead with the message 'change the way you look at things': $16
A set of all three beads: $25