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The Buffet Paul Cezanne

Artist

Paul Cezanne Aix-en-Provence, 1839 – Aix-en-Provence, 1906

School
Culture
Date 1877
Object type painting
Medium, technique oil on canvas
Dimensions

65.5 x 81 cm

Inventory number 371.B
Collection Department of Art after 1800
On view This artwork is not on display

When the picture was painted in the mid-1870s Cézanne was friends with the most important Impressionist painters: Pissarro, Monet and Renoir. At this time, the palette of his earlier so-called Baroque-style paintings gave way to lighter colours, but rather than the Impressionists’ method of painting he was preoccupied with capturing what is lasting and permanent. He regularly studied works in museums, plaster cast collections, and reproductions in art journals. Just as the poetry of Charles Baudelaire can be viewed as the culmination of previous movements, so can Cézanne’s still-lifes from the 1870s, for which he studied the compositions of Chardin and seventeenth-century Spanish still-life painters. Cézanne used what he learnt from still-lifes in his portraits and landscapes too.
The still-lifes make up a considerable part of his oeuvre, and several of them were expressions of the artist’s momentary state of mind. The Budapest still-life expresses symmetry in asymmetry. The top and the shelf of the buffet are linked by a full bottle of wine, as a solid point between the fragile white porcelain cups, the wine-glass, the rumpled white tea-cloth and the mound of feather-light ladyfingers.

Catalogue entry

This still life was painted between 1877 and 1879. The Buffet in the Budapest collection serves as a perfect illustration of the diagnosis of Cezanne’s works ascertained by the art critic Ernő Kállai: “The ideal that Cezanne held in his mind’s eye was the solid, plastic forming of the ancients. His desire was to turn the ethereal colours of the impressionists into a substantive painterly creation, but … without sacrificing a single one of their myriad hues. Not only did he maintain the impressionist colouration, he gave it added layers and nuances. Cezanne called the process “modulation”, and in his still lifes he applied pigment to canvas in small patches, gradually building up the forms and masses of the painted objects. Two adjacent patches of colour always had to achieve tonal equilibrium.“ Since the painting underwent restoration in spring 2012, the artist’s original ideas and solutions can now be seen in perfect clarity. Besides its palette, the picture stands out for its composition. The carved side panel on the buffet has a flowing form, while the punctiliously placed tableware, fruits and sponge biscuits are depicted using basic geometric shapes; yet it is the system of relationships between these forms that makes this painting a key work. This masterpiece forms a bridge between the early, “baroque-like” period of Cezanne’s œuvre and the true “Cezannesque” painting that gained increasing distinction from the 1880s onwards. Even the handling of the brush in this work reflects a transitional stage. Restoration revealed once more the striking contrast between the gentle application of light blue pigment on the background wall and the thick impasto of the white cloth in the foreground, with its diagonal lines and its boldly structured solutions.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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