Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer
Armand Guillaumin (France, 1841–1927)
Still Life, (Nature morte), c. 1885
Oil on canvas
7 ½ x 9 ½ in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000
Armand Guillaumin began his studies at the Académie Suisse in 1861, where he met both Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne. He began painting views of the Seine with an emphasis on light and color and later took part in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Guillaumin would participate in five of the remaining seven Impressionist exhibitions. In the 1880s, he responded to Post-Impressionism by intensifying his palette and experimenting with new approaches to form, as with this still life inspired by the work of Cézanne. The latter began painting still lifes of apples in the late 1870s as a means of working out new techniques he hoped would reconcile the two-dimensionality of painting with the perceived three-dimensionality of the world around him. Apart from close friends such as Guillaumin, few others knew about Cézanne’s approach until the 1890s.
Cézanne explained his theories in a letter to fellow artist Émile Bernard and encouraged him to “treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth... lines perpendicular to this horizon give depth. But nature for us men is more depth than surface, whence the need to introduce into our light vibrations, represented by the reds and yellows, a sufficient amount of blueness to give the feel of air.” Guillaumin likely received the same encouragement. He paints the apples as spheres and uses planes of color, oriented towards a central point in the composition, to give the appearance of three-dimensionality. He also reduced his palette primarily to red and yellow to create the impression of solidity. Cézanne claimed, “with an apple I will astonish Paris,” and his new approach to painting would have a lasting impact beyond Guillaumin and other close colleagues.
Although Guillaumin did not paint solely in the style of Cézanne, he remained interested in innovative techniques and devoted himself to painting exclusively after he won the state lottery in 1891. He also followed the example of Vincent van Gogh at times, and Vincent’s brother, Theo, represented Guillaumin.