Straw-Trimmed Vase, Sugar Bowl and Apples

Paul Cézanne1890 - 1893

Musée de l'Orangerie

Musée de l'Orangerie
Paris, France

This still life is one of the boldest in Cézanne's world of inventiveness. It ignores conventional perspective, and its objects are freely dispersed over the canvas in an arrange¬ment whose coherence is artistic rather than descriptive. The refutation of literal representation, or at least of plausible depiction, concerns the textures and shapes of the objects as much as their positions in relation to the table surface, which has itself been artfully tampered with. Moreover, in this painting Cézanne has introduced indecipherable—i.e. abstract—elements such as the vertical line that extends between the vase and the sugar bowl, the oblique black line (a knife handle?) that touches the edge of the picture on the right, and the traces of the contour of the vase in its initial position, which Cézanne refrained from erasing.

As for the apparently unbalanced plate of fruit, Cézanne repeated this motif some ten times, both with and without the straw-trimmed vase. Maurice Denis, who was one of Cézanne's earliest admirers among the painters of his generation and was also one of the first to critically comment on Cézanne's work, subtly contemplated Cézanne's process as it emerges in this still life: "Cézanne's fruits and his unfinished figures are the best example of this working method, which may derive from Chardin: a few square brushstrokes, applied in the form of certain softly blending colors placed side by side, indicate the rounded shapes; the outline emerges only at the end, like a furious accent, a stroke denoting the essence, which emphasizes and sets off the form that has already been brought out by the gradual shadings of color.

"In this combination of colors aimed at achieving an effect of grand style, the planes of perspective vanish, the values (in the sense of Beaux-Arts School values), and the values of atmosphere become attenuated and are equi¬pollent. The decorative effect and the equilibrium of the composition emerge with special sharpness because the overhead perspective has been considerably foreshor-tened". (L'Occident, September 1907, reprinted in Théories, Paris 1920, page 259).


  • Title: Straw-Trimmed Vase, Sugar Bowl and Apples
  • Creator Lifespan: 1839 - 1906
  • Creator Nationality: French
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Aix-en-Provence
  • Creator Birth Place: Aix-en-Provence
  • Date Created: 1890 - 1893
  • Physical Dimensions: w460 x h360 mm
  • Painter: Paul Cézanne
  • Original Title: Vase paillé, sucrier et pommes
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: © RMN (Musée de l'Orangerie) / Hervé Lewandowski

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