Monday, February 4, 2013

Still life I: living things

Paul Cezanne. Still life with apples. 46 x 55 cm. O/c. 1894

This blog post is the first in a series about still life, prompted by a comment on Google+ today, which (albeit supposed to be critical) suddenly clarified and brought into focus my own relationship with this genre. Here is what Wassily Kandinsky had to say about Paul Cezanne's still lifes: 

"Cezanne made a living thing out of a teacup, or rather in a teacup he realized the existence of something alive. He raised still life to such a point that it ceased to be inanimate. He painted these things as he painted human beings, because he was endowed with the gift of divining the inner life in everything." [Kandinsky, Wassily. "Concerning the Spiritual in Art." (Kindle Locations 434-436). Kindle Edition.] 

Indeed, Cezanne's still life objects don't really sit still. Technically, that's because they are shown from slightly different perspectives simultaneously, so they seem to move before the viewer's eye. This is something, by the way, that happens "on its own", quite naturally, if your still life set-up is close enough to your easel, and you paint it from standing position, constantly moving closer to and farther from the easel, to look at the picture. In other words, it is something you've got to be consciously avoiding if you want to paint a traditionally "still" still life from life; not, of course, if you paint it from photo, where even people are devoid of movement. 

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