This summer, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia premieres a landmark exhibition of still-life paintings by French post-impressionist Paul Cézanne (1839–1906). Ranging from early paintings to very late works, with themes ranging from apples and flowers to skulls, this select gathering of 21 paintings reappraises Cézanne’s monumental achievement in the genre.
The exhibition draws from an international roster of public and private collections, including major works from acclaimed European and American museums such as the National Gallery (Washington, DC), Musée d’Orsay (Paris), Stiftung Langmatt (Baden), Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York).
Soon after arriving in Paris in the 1860s, Cézanne became a notorious figure, unprecedented in the history of French art. At the center of his radical self-fashioning were his still lifes of often glaring colors, skewed perspective, and thickly painted surfaces that unmoored objects and their meanings from conventional representation. Cézanne established his distinctive style through works such as Still Life: Flask, Glass, and Jug (c. 1877) and Apples and Cakes (1877), recasting the physical and perceptual relations between people and things. Extending their traditional meanings as symbols of abundance, vanity, or rusticity, Cézanne used apples, skulls, or crockery to create a visual language of punning juxtapositions and poetic allusion. His paintings invite viewers to rethink the world and the place of man and objects in it.
“While he surely looked closely at nature, Cézanne self-consciously plays with colors, forms, and space in a manner that invites a free association that contrasts with the fixed meanings of academic tradition in his still lifes. He creates an alternative world where things can move and exist improbably and signify variously, exploding and evading the traditional containment of the ‘silent life of things,’” explains exhibition curator Benedict Leca.
As the “Painter of Apples,” Cézanne returned many times to his signature motif, working through the complexities of color application and its effects. Cézanne’s famous apple paintings are represented in the exhibition by three exceptional examples: Seven Apples and a Tube of Color, Apples on a Chair, and Some Apples (all ca. 1878–1880). Also on view, a contrasting pair of flower paintings: The Dark Blue Vase III (1880) is a small-scale, intimate work in which Cézanne explores pattern, while the large Vase of Flowersexemplifies Cézanne’s later obsessions with contours and surfaces.
Over the course of his career, Cézanne moved progressively towards a highly structured style of still-life painting, characterized by ever more deliberate arrangements of objects. His “classic” phase culminated in the 1890s and is represented in the exhibition by major works like The Kitchen Table (c. 1890) and Fruit and Ginger Pot (1890–1893). The latest works in the exhibition are anchored by two important paintings of skulls, Three Skullsand Three Skulls on a Patterned Carpet.
A prolific artist who synthesized formal problems through a close study of objects, Cézanne’s lifelong engagement with still life yielded what is arguably the most innovative body of work in the genre by any artist in the Western canon. Ultimately, Cézanne set still-life painting on a new course, rescuing it from its low position in the academic hierarchy of French painting, and prefiguring later compositions of masters from Pablo Picasso to Andy Warhol.
“This is the first Cézanne exhibition in our new exhibition space” said Judith F. Dolkart, Deputy Director of Art and Archival Collections and Gund Family Chief Curator. “and it is particularly exciting to have this rare opportunity to consider the 16 Cézanne still lifes in the Barnes Foundation permanent collection in a fresh, new light—in the context of the exceptional grouping of loaned masterpieces presented in this show.”
The World is An Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne was organized by the Art Gallery of Hamilton in Ontario, in a special collaboration with the Barnes Foundation and was made possible through generous support from RBC (Royal Bank of Canada).
The exhibition at the Barnes Foundation was made possible by Morgan Stanley. Comcast │NBC Universal is contributing sponsor in Philadelphia. Generous support is also provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, and the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund.
The exhibition at AGH is supported by Mobotix Corp. and PACART and PLC+.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, scholarly catalogue co-published by the Art Gallery of Hamilton and D Giles Limited (London), with essays by Benedict Leca, Paul G. Smith, Professor of Art History at the University of Warwick, Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, and Director, Center for the Study of Modernism, The University of Texas at Austin and Nina Athanassoglou-Kallmeyer, Professor and Chair, Department of art history at University of Delaware, and a foreword by Philippe Cézanne, great-grandson of the artist.
Exhibition curator: Benedict Leca, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario).
Coordinating curator for the Barnes Foundation: Judith F. Dolkart, Deputy Director of Art and Archival Collections and Gund Family Chief Curator.
The Barnes Foundation’s permanent art collection contains 69 works by Cézanne, including 16 still lifes, all of which will be on display in the adjacent Collection Gallery during the exhibition, along with related programming and lectures.
Additional Venue: Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, November 1, 2014–January 31, 2015
About the Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture." The Barnes has one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive holdings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast; old master paintings; African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles; American paintings and decorative arts; and antiquities from the Mediterranean and Asia.
The Barnes Foundation's Art and Aesthetics programs engage diverse audiences. These programs, on-site, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the mission through progressive interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
In May 2012, the Barnes Foundation opened a new facility on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The Philadelphia campus is home to the Foundation’s world-famous art collection and changing exhibitions in its 5,000-square-foot Roberts Gallery. Currently on view through April 21, 2014 is Yinka Shonibare MBE: Magic Ladders
The Barnes Arboretum in Merion contains more than 2,000 varieties of trees and woody plants, including 31 state champion trees. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Laura Barnes, the collection includes a fern-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Laciniata'), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important living collections include lilacs, peonies, Stewartias, and magnolias. Inaugurated in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes, the Arboretum School offers a comprehensive three-year certificate course in botanical science, horticultural practice, garden aesthetics, and design. The Foundation’s archives are also located at the Merion campus.
For more details please visit www.barnsfoundation.org and for information about traveling to Philadelphia please visit www.visitphilly.com