The present picture is a lively and engaging example from a series of still-lifes that Cézanne executed in late 1872 and 1873 at the home of Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise. An amateur painter and printmaker, Dr. Gachet frequently invited artists working in and around Auvers to use his studio and to share his printing facilities. Cézanne and Pissarro, who were living nearby at Pontoise, often availed themselves of Gachet's hospitality on days when the weather prevented them from painting outdoors. Cézanne even made a pencil drawing in 1873 that depicts him and Gachet etching side-by-side (Musée d'Orsay; reproduced in Cézanne, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1995-1996, p. 538). Another well-known visitor to Gachet's atelier was van Gogh, who described the doctor's house in a letter to his brother Theo dated May 1890, "His house...it's full, full as an antiques merchant's, of not always interesting things. But in all this there is [at least] something good [with which] to arrange flowers or still lifes, there would always be something. I feel that in his place I can make a pretty good painting every time I go there..." (quoted in J. Rewald, op. cit., p. 153). Indeed, the present still-life incorporates a vase of Sicilian origin, the so-called Urbino vase, that was placed at Cézanne's disposal by Gachet. Cézanne used the Urbino vase in one additional still-life, which remains unfinished (Rewald no. 204; private collection).
With its bright, varied palette and fleeting, vibratory touch, the present still-life is characteristic of Cézanne's Impressionist period of the early 1870s. The artist's abandonment of the dark tonalities and rough facture that had dominated his work in the previous decade was due in large part to the influence of Pissarro, his constant companion during the sojourn at Auvers. Cézanne repeatedly acknowledged his artistic debt to Pissarro. As late as the 1900s, he listed himself in an exhibition catalogue as "Paul Cézanne, pupil of Pissarro", and on another occasion wrote, "As for old Pissarro, he was a father to me; someone to turn to for advice, somebody like the good Lord Himself" (quoted in B.E. White, Impressionists Side By Side, New York, 1996, p. 109).
The present picture is one of at least twenty-four canvases by Cézanne that formed part of Paul-Ferdinand Gachet's personal collection. Upon the doctor's death in 1909, the works passed to his son Paul-Louis, who subsequently donated many of them to the Louvre. The authenticity of some of these pictures has occasionally been doubted, and the works attributed either to Gachet himself or to Gachet fils. John Rewald, however, unequivocally accepted the present painting as authentic in his recent Cézanne catalogue raisonné, the most up-to-date and authoritative source on the painter's oeuvre. As Rewald declared, "Nobody who had ever seen the rather inept paintings by these two [Gachet and Gachet fils] could possibly entertain such views; nor can those who have been friends of the late Paul Gachet accept the thought that he would have knowingly passed off paintings by himself or his father as Cézanne's work" (J. Rewald, op. cit., p. 154).
(fig. 1) The vase seen in the present picture, donated to the Louvre by Paul-Louis Gachet.