Nature morte

The twenty-one works by Paul Cézanne on display in an exhibit entitled “The World is an Apple” are a coup for the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) which is celebrating its centenary. The still lifes by one of my favourite nineteenth-century French artists feature pears, ginger pots, flowers and skulls in addition to the aforementioned apples. Cézanne’s work is noted for the angles he uses. In one painting it appears as if he moved his easel several times to render the tableau with no regard for the wonky perspective that results. 

Unlike Vincent Van Gogh who described his paintings in detail, we know very little about Cézanne’s methodology. Did he set out fruit and pots on a table and complete the work while the fruit was still fresh, or did he replace items he ate for lunch or went punky? As for his skulls, painted in his later years, they give new meaning to the word haunted. 

This exhibit is particularly noteworthy because it brings together works from a number of public and private collections in North America and Europe. Former AGH director of curatorial affairs Benedict Leca organized the exhibit in collaboration with the prestigious Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

Leca, who came to the AGH from the Cincinnati Art Museum two years ago, is on the move again, this time to become director of the Redwood Library and Anthenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island, after being passed over for the role of president and CEO of the AGH. Leca’s fruitful labours, however, remain on view until February 8, 2015.

My daughter, Dr. Alison J. McQueen, a professor of art history at McMaster University, will deliver a public lecture about Cézanne at 7:30 p.m. on Monday January 19, 2015 as part of her Friends of Art History series. The exact location of the talk on the McMaster campus in Hamilton will be announced closer to the date. 

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