European Art: 19th Century

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Vase of Flowers, 1880-1881

Paul CĂ©zanne

French, 1839-1906
Oil on canvas
18-1/2 x 21-3/4 in. (47.0 x 55.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

The distinctive wallpaper behind this abundant floral still life by Paul Cézanne identifies the setting as the artist’s studio in Paris. Although he is largely associated with Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, Cézanne nevertheless maintained a studio in the French capital and proved himself to be a key player in the development of modern art. This still life visually declares Cézanne’s placement within that history. Here the artist deftly renders the colorful arrangement with thick brushstrokes so that the flowers, leaves and vase are laden with volume. At the same time, using a much thinner application of paint, the Provençal master simplifies the patterned wallpaper to the elemental forms of line and oval, emphasizing the depthlessness of the flat design, which is particularly exaggerated against the mass of the arrangement before it. This dialogue between the presentation of two and three dimensions, so beautifully exhibited here, lay at the heart of twentieth-century modernism.

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