Room 3: Cézanne / van Gogh

Paul Cézanne exhibited twice with the Impressionists, in 1874 and 1877, when his paintings were singled out for particularly harsh criticism. After 1886 he was increasingly isolated in Aix-en-Provence although his work was much admired by other artists, as Maurice Denis’ large ‘manifesto’ painting—Homage to Cézanne—suggests. The still-life genre was of great importance to Cézanne. He delighted in portraying forms reduced to their geometries, and in depicting objects as living beings—declaring I will ‘astonish Paris with an apple’. Cézanne and other painters who took cues from him—Paul Gauguin, Paul Sérusier and Pablo Picasso—celebrate the refined beauty of the ordinary. These artists cropped compositions, compressed space and tilted the picture plane.

Van Gogh arrived in Paris in 1886, at a time of great artistic change: older Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro were rethinking their approach to painting, and Gauguin and Georges Seurat were jostling for leadership of the avant-garde. Artists were now absorbing a wide range of influences—medieval glass, Japanese art, popular prints and photography. Seven paintings by van Gogh show his transformation over a three-year period, from the relatively subdued, naturalistic view of a Parisian restaurant with its feathery, Impressionist-like brushstrokes, to the radically coloured, painterly treatment of his bedroom at Arles.