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Cézanne: Still Life with Plaster Cast

Details: Cupid amongst the vegetables

What is that strange distorted thing in the middle of the picture?

The centre of the picture is dominated by a plaster bust of Cupid. If Cézanne had followed the old conventional methods he would have made an accurate portrayal from a fixed viewpoint. However, if you study it carefully, he has painted it so that it appears twisted around on its base. Why has he done this? Because as he worked on this picture over a long period of time, and he himself moved around it. He has pieced together his image by painting what he saw from these changing viewpoints. Little by little he has built up a composite image of the figure that shows more than could be seen from one fixed position.

What are those vegetably things on the table?

On the table are, it seems at first sight, different sorts of fruit and vegetables. But can you identify exactly what they are? Are they apples? Pears? Peaches? Onions? Parsnips? If he had followed conventional practice he would have created a convincing illusion of easily identifiable fruits and vegetables. But he has not done this. He has only painted what he sees, and what he has seen is simply form, shape and colour, and the relationships between the objects. Notice how the outlines keep changing and are built up brush stroke by brush stroke as his perception changes.

Apple or football?

At the back of the studio is a large round green object. What is it? It is as large as the round objects on the table. Conventional practice dictates that because it is further away - and if it is an apple - it should be smaller. According to this convention, to paint it this size it would need to be as large as a football. But Cézanne did not see it as smaller. Aren't all apples in reality more or less the same size? So isn't it just as "correct" to show a distant apple the same size as one that is a close-up.

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