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Milk Can and Apples

Paul Cézanne1879 - 1880

MoMA The Museum of Modern Art

MoMA The Museum of Modern Art

Early in his career, Cézanne focused on violent, dark subjects, but in the 1870s he turned to landscape and still life, a shift that allowed the radical innovation of his formal experiments to come to the fore. In Milk Can and Apples, he divides the canvas horizontally: the cool blues of the cloth, pitcher, and wallpaper contrast with the yellows, oranges, and reds of the fruit on the table. The foreshortened baguette parallels the sharp diagonal formed by the crumpled linen, and the decorative flowers and fruit on the wallpaper complement the placement of objects on the table. With this careful composition, Cézanne suggests that the painting is both a mirror of nature and something which stands apart; as he put it, "It is understood that the artist places himself in front of nature; he copies it while interpreting it."

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