Paul Cézanne’s still life paintings were driven by his fascination with optical illusions and his quest to reduce natural forms to geometric essentials like the cone, cube, and sphere. However, in Still Life with Apples, Cézanne pursued more than mere illusionism by exploring the nature of painting and seeing.
He consistently drew attention to the quality of paint and canvas rather than simply imitating life. Through his still lifes, he aimed to evoke a sense of place by searching for harmony and balance in form and color. In this piece, he arranged apples on a plate alongside a ceramic pitcher against a simple background that resembles wooden slats.
Cézanne often painted the same subjects multiple times as he experimented with shape, color, and lighting. Even though Still Life with Apples is an oil painting from about 1890 – well after other painters had shifted their focus to newer artistic styles – it remains renowned for its timeless quality because of Cézanne’s intense study of line, composition, color harmony, and process over superficiality or trendiness.