Paul Cézanne, Fruit and Ginger Jar, circa 1890 - 1893Back

Paul Cézanne
Fruit and Ginger Jar

circa 1890 - 1893

Oil on canvas
33 x 46,5 cm
Museum Langmatt, Baden
Inv.-no. 121


A soft golden light casts an enchantment over this still life, making the fruits and objects look calm and rounded. At first glance, these items appear to lie around in a random way. A second glance, however, shows a sophisticated and balanced composition. The tabletop and the jug give the ensemble a certain stability, and yet this is instantly called into question by the strikingly folded, white cloth. To the left, it bunches up into a hard, edged shape; to the right, it puts the plate with the large apple in a crooked position. On both sides, it hangs down untidily and with considerable weight to an unknown depth, almost taking the centrally placed golden apple with it. The diagonal folds in the cloth correspond with the diagonally arranged elements of the interior scene above and to the right. In purely compositional terms, resting elements engage in a stimulating dialogue with elements of movement. Over everything lies the peculiar magic of an almost supernatural light, which illuminates the scene softly and warmly as if the ensemble were glowing with its own inner life. Particularly conspicuous is the glowing bright white with its astonishing color value, which does describe a cloth but is on its way to being an independent, non-representational form. The color struggles with its form, the subject matter with its dissolution. The cloth’s resistant energy is juxtaposed with the smooth, soft fruits. The apples and pears on the far left, with their strikingly sketch-like two-dimensionality, contrast with the other fruits in the picture; an early indication of the increasing abstractions in further works by the artist.

Throughout the tradition of European still life painting, ever since the magnificent sixteenth and seventeenth-century Dutch still life epoch, this genre had been seen as a richly varied metaphor for transience. The gloriously blooming flowers would naturally be accompanied by drooping flowers, and the fully ripe fruits by fruits with the suggestion of mold. Arising and passing away, the eternal cycle of life, a metaphor for human existence. Cézanne, however, decidedly rejects this symbolism. The still life genre had certain practical advantages, as it could be quickly assembled in the studio and served as a jumping-off point for discovering something entirely different: as an artist, Cézanne was in search of the inner life of color and form. For instance, this picture shows the effective application of complementary color contrast: green and red, blue and dark yellow heighten one another. It also casts an analytical gaze on the structure of nature. The apples and pears are significantly reduced in their degree of reality. The important factor is not the naturalistic reproduction of the surface or the details of the leaves, but the inner life of the colors, which sometimes appear astonishingly two-dimensional, even though, traditionally, they should describe a spherical apple shape.

Markus Stegmann in: «Herzkammer», Museum Langmatt 2020