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The Arts Room Painting Still life paintings
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Still life paintings
I went to the new Cezanne exhibition taking place these days in Paris's Luxembourg Museum and it brings an insightful perspective with many pieces that don't exactly look like the Cezanne paintings we are used to. He wrote that the Louvre was his school and used to go there with his pencil, and sketch the great paintings he found there.

As I walked through the exhibition I was especially struck by Cezanne still life and first by this early painting:



It reminded me of the Spanish like Melendez:



What do these still life paintings have in common except from the subject and dark background? In what are they different?

Also, when you see a painting of a person, an action, you feel some of the painting's emotion (even through a certain distance). When you see a painting describing a pastoral view or a place, you can sometimes jump into it, but what do we feel when seeing still life?
It's a beautiful question. As one remark, I remember going to the exhibit of Cezanne and Pissarro several years ago and being struck by how often Cezanne blocks the viewer's way into the paintings; there are often obstructions, obstacles.




So it's interesting now to see, in the still life you quote, how the glass placed front and center blocks the view; how the knife is placed with its blade outwards, towards the viewer; how the bread in turn steadies, or blocks, or perhaps even traps the cloth from falling off the table; the combination of storm and order.

I don't know Melendez but what orderliness, by contrast: everything arranged nicely on a plate, the glass off to the side, all the food ready to eat (no shallots) and tastefully arranged, the cloth spread flat beneath. Even though the rest of the room is obscure in each case, it's clear the scenes are completely different.

Less relevant here, but worth mentioning, is the linguistic difference between "still life" and "nature morte."
It's a great question.
I liked your comment Molly about the difference between still-life and dead-nature ("nature morte").
Here is a Cezanne picture which follows the French name:



I don't have much to say but I remember being in a Chaim Soutine exhibit with a friend of mine who found the following still-life picture astonishing (perhaps because how alive the fish looked?):





Perhaps one thing which is interesting in still-life/dead-nature is how to create a sense of movement in what is still. That is, when painting a person, or a historical scene, it is like a photograph of a scene. We can feel the movement of the scene, or the person about to get up and move from where they sit.. But still-life? How do you create movement and life by showing something dead?
Interesting discussion.
I'll add to what Chris says about a sense of movement this :one room which was a portrait/still life romm showed the portrait of Madame Cezanne and various still life paintings with the same background tapestry:

Underneath this painting there was a text about the fact that she sits there as silent as an apple. Maybe Cezanne was expressing life and movement in still objects and an expressionless immobility in living people.
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Latest Post: February 17, 2012 at 1:00 PM
Number of posts: 6
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