The French artist and post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne was born on 19th January 1839. Well known for his landscape and still life paintings, he famously made the following bold statement:
“With an apple I want to astonish Paris”
Part provocation, part personal quest, Cézanne’s mission was to radically rethink how three-dimensional objects could be captured in paint and incorporate multiple viewpoints instead of one-point perspective. In depicting an apple in this way, Cézanne not only brilliantly captures the likeness of an apple but also the truth of how we might perceive one in a physical setting. His experiments brought about a new direction for representation in art which challenged form, perspective and colour theory and initially shocked critics.
“Of an ordinary painter’s apple you say, ‘I could take a bite out of it.’ . . . Of an apple by Cézanne one says: ‘How beautiful!’ ”
So why did Cézanne choose the apple? One of the many reasons the artist may have used the apple for his artistic experiments was its universal status as a fruit, one which already came laden with global meaning and cultural significance. Thought to embody both earth and the cosmos in Christian symbolism, the apple is also often the marker of a significant human event in paintings such as the all-important fruit of exchange between Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. It may also reflect Cezanne’s affinity to the rustic, being more at home with the peasants of Provence than the elite in Paris.