Paul Cézanne was also an artist interested in how we see, but he was especially interested in how we
perceive solidity if all we truly see is the sensation of color. Like the Impressionists (and he did exhibit with
them), Cézanne used visible brushstrokes and colors that interacted with each other. His shadows might be
painted with intense blue, a cool color that naturally seems to recede, while highlights would be painted
with warm yellows.
Cézanne’s approach is seen in Still Life with Basket of Apples. In this painting, Cézanne recorded each object
as he saw it, without applying a system of perspective. It is as if he painted the far right corner of the table
just as he saw it, and he painted the far left edge of the table just as he saw it, but because his particular
point of view changed as he was looking at each part, the sides do not line up. Similarly, the apples and
biscuits tilt at angles that do not correspond to the tilt of the tabletop. In his landscape painting, Cézanne
explored how our minds separate foreground and background in distant views. In paintings like Mont
Sainte-Victoire, Cézanne used block-like brushstrokes that actually seem to lock foreground and background
together; similarly, areas of warm colors (predominantly the middle ground) merge with the cooler colors
above and below. This merging of object and background was especially influential among the artists who
developed Cubism.
Cezanne, Still Life with Basket of Apples, c. 1893 Cezanne, Mont Saint-Victoire, 1904-6
Vincent van Gogh’s paintings are deeply personal expressions. Van Gogh came to painting relatively late in
life, after first pursuing careers as an art dealer, a teacher, and a minister. Finally when van Gogh was about
twenty-seven years old, he received some training in art, although he was largely self-taught. He first
painted peasants in a dark realist manner and then took an interest in Impressionism. Van Gogh developed
his characteristic style of painting with broad, impasto strokes of sharply contrasting color only in the last
few years of his short life. The Starry Night (1889) is one of his best-known paintings, showing a clear night
sky over a quiet town. In the hands of any other painter this would have been a study in serenity, but van
Gogh created a pulsating, swirling scene in which the stars seem alive. The strokes of paint make the air
palpable, and the complementary colors of violet and yellow vibrate against each other.
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