By Tom Rickert
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 19th century French painter Paul Cézanne made his name in the art world by using humble forms like still lifes to turn the traditional methods of the time on their heads. He was part of the generation of impressionist painters, like Renoir, but he also went beyond impressionist painting in developing his own signature style.
The Barnes Foundation has gathered 21 of Cézanne’s still lifes, from its own collection and from museums all over the world, in an exhibit titled “The World Is an Apple.” Barnes Foundation Deputy Director of Art Judith Dolkart says the name of the exhibition comes from a quote attributed to the painter.
“He is said to have announced, ‘I want to astonish Paris with an apple,'” Dolkart explained. “That’s a pretty remarkable thing, because what he’s saying is that with the genre of still life, a painting that occupied the lowest position on the hierarchy of painting, he wanted to astonish the most sophisticated art capital of the period.
And in his paintings, Cézanne completely blurred the lines between the medium and the message. Dolkart gives an example by looking at one if his paintings, Kitchen Table, on loan to the Barnes from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
“We can see a sort of broader view of the space that it occupies and we realize that actually it’s the artist’s studio,” she said. “Because we see to the left his palette, and we see perhaps a painting leaning against the wall, so we have this sense of Cezanne as an artist, someone who’s announcing that he’s a painter.”
Cézanne broke the fourth wall in many of his paintings, something that just wasn’t done or approved of in the art culture at the time.
“There were a certain sort of conventions of painting, and the generation that Cézanne belonged to, they really broke the rules,” Dolkart said. “They were looking to distinguish themselves, and distinguish painting itself. You know, this is a painting about painting, with the inclusion of the tube of paint… Very self conscious that way.”
The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne is on display at the Barnes Foundation until September 22nd. For more information, visit www.barnesfoundation.org.