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Still life with basket (Kitchen table)

Paul Cezanne

Still life with basket (Kitchen table)

Paul Cezanne
  • Date: c.1888 - c.1890
  • Style: Post-Impressionism
  • Period: Mature period
  • Genre: still life
  • Media: oil, canvas
  • Dimensions: 65 x 81 cm
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Kitchen table (Still-life with basket) (1888-1890) is an intricate still life composition painted. It depicts pots, fruits, a basket, and cloth, all assembled on a kitchen table. Every component of the painting is carefully arranged and calculated: the artist pushes the table and cloth close to the viewer and crops them at the bottom of the canvas. The tabletop appears impossibly tilted, and some of the pots seem to be unstable on the table surface. For instance, both the grey pot and the basket have no more surface left on the tabletop. Similarly, the table, the cupboard, and the chair that line up diagonally on the left, all have a distorted sense of perspective. These distortions demonstrate how Cézanne’s principal concern was geometric form and color, rather than an accurate representation of reality. By painting objects like the grey pot from several viewpoints, simultaneously from above and the front, Cézanne wanted to represent a more profound truth that could be presented in painting but not in reality.

Cézanne achieves harmony through the color scheme: the fruits are painted in brilliant tones of red, green, and yellow. He contrasts the warm hues of the wood and the cane with the cooler tones of white, grey, and purple that are visible in the cloth and the ceramic dishes. The artist accentuated the rounded shape of the fruit, by repeating the circular shape in the loop of the grey pot, the basket handle, and in the handle of the coffee pot. There is also repetition in the floral motif in multiple details: the floral decoration on the china coffee jug, the round pot, and the flower painting on the wall.

Kitchen table (Still-life with basket) is one of many masterful examples of Cézanne’s still lifes, which are a significant portion of his body of work. Throughout his life, he painted nearly 200 still lifes, that mainly focused on simple household objects. In painting one still life after another, Cézanne continuously explored the relation of the objects in the composition, striving to find harmony and balance in form and color. To achieve this, he rearranged the different objects in his studio into new compositions, painting them at times from multiple viewpoints.

He was particularly fond of painting fruit and found beauty in their rich colors and basic shape. He explained to a friend: “they [fruits] love having their portraits done... They exhale their message with their scent. They reach you with all their smells and tell you about the fields they’ve left, the rain that made them grow, the dawns they watched. When I’m outlining the skin of a lovely peach with soft touches of paint or a sad old apple, I catch a glimpse in the reflections they exchange of . . . the same love of the sun, the same recollection of the dew, a freshness.” In still lifes like Kitchen table (Still-life with basket), Cézanne had the ambitious goal of creating a monumental painting of everyday objects. He stated: “I shall astonish Paris with an apple”.

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