Cézanne, Paul

Image Still Life with Watermelon and Pomegranates

1900-06 (110 Kb); Watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 x 18 1/2 in; Philadelphia Museum of Art

Even in comparison with the other large watercolors done by Cézanne near the end of his life, this work stands as a particularly audacious achievement. Five rounded objects--a melon, two pomegranates, a glass water carafe, and the same white sugar bowl that appears in Dish of Apples--completely fill a tabletop. The forms are first established by a light network of drawn pencil lines over which Cézanne flooded abundant panels of transparent color, which, playing off the exposed white of the paper, gives these modest objects a monumentality that is equal in spatial effect to that of his oil still lifes and exceeds them in coloristic brilliance. Rarely does the artist respond so directly to the reflective interrelationships of objects, the yellow pomegranate mirrored in the sheen of the melon, the green and lavender light flashing from the cut flutes on the carafe, the objects laid into a luminous shadow reflected from the polished table surface.

Geometry plays little role in Cézanne's spatial creation. Even the table edge, begun on the left as an exposed sliver of white paper, is transformed by a streak of purple wash, disappearing altogether to the right. The wall beyond--perhaps with an opening to the left into another room--falls as a curtain of color dynamically progressing from cool to warm, right to left. The inexplicable white form just at the left edge--a partially seen porcelain object or the outline of a chair back--sets the plane by its open silhouette.

Some of the abundant richness of this watercolor comes directly from the artist's response to the objects themselves. He used them, with the introduction of a wine bottle, in another watercolor of equal liberality, although more linearly analytical. The presence of the cut melon in another work dispels the previous confusion of this simple, rounded form with an eggplant. As John Rewald has noted, the almost formidable monumentality of Cézanne's work put off at least one early critic and, indeed, in works such as this--as with the late Mont Sainte-Victoire and bather subjects--Cézanne exceeded his own earlier powers to bring creation into balance with observation and the handling of his materials into accord with spatial definition. The colors and their relationship to the objects in space are brought here to a peak of harmonic intensity. Humble observations, such as the four thumbtack marks still clearly visible from when Cézanne pinned the sheet of heavy, woven paper to his board, bring one soberly back to the simplicity of his materials and the grandeur of his creation.
-- Joseph J. Rishel

© 19 Sep 2002, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info
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