PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
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PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
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Property of an Important Collector
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)

Quatre pommes

Details
PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906)
Quatre pommes
oil on canvas
8 3/8 x 13 ½ in. (21.1 x 34.4 cm.)
Painted in 1880-1881
Provenance
Auguste Pellerin, Paris.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 6 February 1909).
Galerie Etienne Bignou, Paris.
Albert Skira, Geneva.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne.
Mme. René Junod, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland (acquired from the above, by 1956); Estate sale, Christie's, London, 1 December 1986, lot 15.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 18 November 1998, lot 18.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
L. Venturi, Cézanne: Son artson oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 144, no. 364 (illustrated, vol. II; titled Nature morte and dated 1879-1882).
L. Gowing, "Notes on the Development of Cézanne" in The Burlington Magazine, June 1956, vol. XCVIII, no. 639, p. 188 (dated 1877).
M. Hoog, "Une nature morte de Cézanne reconstituée" in Revue du Louvre, July 1992, p. 66, note 7 (illustrated in color, fig. 5).
J.-M. Baron and P. Bonafoux, Cézanne: Les natures mortes, Paris, 1993, p. 20 (illustrated, p. 21; dated 1879-1882).
F. Kitschen, Cézanne: Stilleben, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1995, p. 197 (illustrated, fig. 22; dated circa 1877).
J. Rewald, W. Feilchenfeldt and J. Warman, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. 1, p. 320, no. 481 (illustrated, vol. 2, p. 154).
B. Schmidt, Cézanne Lehre, Kiel, 2004, p. 235 (illustrated, fig. 66).
G.-P. and F. Dauberville, Paul Cézanne chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2020, vol. I, p. 298, no. 46 (illustrated, p. 299, pl. 4; titled Petite nature morte (pommes)).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (www.cezannecatalogue.com), no. FWN 793 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Kunsthaus Zürich, Paul Cézanne, August-October 1956, p. 26, no. 39 (titled Stilleben and dated 1879-1882).

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Lot Essay

A seemingly simple arrangement of four apples, clustered together upon a vertiginously tilted table top, Paul Cézanne’s Quatre pommes offers a compelling and complex study into color and form, pigment and facture. A work of striking simplicity, here this quotidian subject is rendered monumental and spectacular with strokes of intense greens, reds, and yellows. For an artist obsessed by the act—and art—of looking and subsequently transcribing this vision and sensation into two-dimensional form, the still-life genre was the perfect vehicle for his artistic pursuits. From elaborate arrangements of fruits, objects, and patterned fabrics, to depictions of isolated apples, such as the present work, the still life offered Cézanne a way of probing the boundaries of illusionism, exploring the relationships between one object to another, between the viewer and the painting, as well as the properties of paint itself. As Emile Bernard wrote, Cézanne “needed time to push [the limits of his medium], and it was in front of skulls, in front of green fruits or paper flowers that he found it” (quoted in B. Leca, ed., The World is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne, exh. cat., The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, 2014, p. 21).
From the narrow strip of just-visible wallpaper that serves as the background of Quatre pommes, it has been deduced that Cézanne likely painted this work in his Paris apartment on 32, rue de l’Ouest (J. Rewald, W. Feilchenfeldt and J. Warman, op. cit., 1996, vol. I, p. 320). Cézanne lived here intermittently from the spring of 1880 until the autumn of 1882, and featured the distinctive-olive toned, geometric-patterned wallpaper in a number of works from this time, including Assiette avec fruits et pot de conserves (FWN, no. 794; The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia), and Pommes, serviette et boîte à lait (FWN, no. 795; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris), as well as in a self-portrait, Portrait de l’artiste au papier peint olivâtre (FWN, no. 462; National Gallery, London).
Amid this setting, Cézanne carefully positioned the apples we see in Quatre pommes. Far from a chance arrangement captured in passing, every aspect of the composition would have been meticulously planned. The artist Louis Le Bail once witnessed Cézanne’s artful preparation of his still-life scenes, describing, “Cézanne arranged the fruits, contrasting the tones one against the other, making the complementaries vibrate, the greens against the reds, the yellows against the blues, tipping, turning, balancing the fruits as he wanted them to be using coins of one or two sous for the purpose. He brought to this task the greatest care and many precautions; one guessed that it was a feast for the eye to him” (quoted in zanne Paintings, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen, 1993, p. 172).
The present work encapsulates this process of constructed compositional creation. The slightest of gaps has been left between the farthest right apple and its neighbor, while the two central apples are positioned in front of one another, their forms echoing and intensifying each other. Working on a small scale, Cézanne has painted the apples as glowing orbs of color, using lavish strokes of oil paint that lend them their wholesome roundness while also conveying the glossiness of their skin. This is one of a number of works that Cézanne painted the late 1870s and early 1880s, in which he focused solely on a small, closely cropped grouping of fruits (FWN, nos. 754-764, 772). These paintings, one of which was owned by Leo and Gertrude Stein (FWN, no. 756; Private collection), while many others are now housed in museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Barnes Foundation, allowed the artist to explore pivotal formal questions, alongside his more complex and elaborate still-life compositions. Taking a simple, ordinary subject, Cézanne created a world of pictorial dynamics, investing the apples with a monumentality that belies their banality.
This was a period of significant change in Cézanne’s work. As the 1870s drew to a close, he famously renounced Impressionism, declaring he wanted to make of it, “something more solid and enduring like the art in museums” (quoted in J. Rewald, Paul Cézanne, London, 1959, p. 122). Unlike the Impressionist goal of capturing the ephemeral appearance of a motif, Cézanne sought instead to impose an ideal pictorial logic on the vagaries of the natural world. Gaining in artistic assuredness his art underwent a shift; forms and objects became more stable and monumentalized as he focused increasingly on pictorial space and compositional structure.
This change in representing the natural world is reflected in the present work. The tabletop is sharply defined and titled upwards so to increase the expansive flatness of the surface. While the apples remain resolutely representational, they nevertheless take on an abstracted quality thanks to the close up nature of their depiction. Paint, color, form and space come to the fore, a perfect illustration of Paul Sérusier’s declaration that, “Of an ordinary painter’s apple you say, ‘I could take a bite out of it,’… Of an apple by Cézanne one says: ‘How beautiful!’ One would not peel it; one would like to copy it. It is in that that the spiritual power of Cézanne consists” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2014, pp. 24-25).

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