"Still Life with Curtain and Flowered Pitcher" (150 Kb); c. 1899; Oil on canvas, 54.7 x 74 cm (21 1/2 x 29 1/8 in), The Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; Venturi 731
Cézanne painted five still lifes showing the same flower-decorated pitcher and, in the background, the same brownish curtain with leaves. In view of the fact that the curtain appears also in a much earlier work, Mardi-Gras, known to have been executed in Paris, it may be presumed that all five compositions were done there, although another painting shows a second drapery or rug that the artist subsequently used in his Aix studio.
'At first sight,' as John Richardson has observed, this painting 'seems a relatively straightforward representation of a classic still-life subject, but on closer examination anomalies emerge. The central dish of fruit, for instance, is tilted so precariously that it threatens to slide out at the onlooker. Likewise the tabletop slopes leftwards out of the picture, and the perspective of the side of the table is awry. Sometimes we seem to be looking up, sometimes down at the objects, as if the artist had changed his viewpoint. There is nothing arbitrary in the liberties that Cézanne has taken. On the contrary, by subtly adjusting the way things look and registering tonal relationships with almost scientific precision, he has endowed his still life with an extra measure of tangible reality and heightened our experience of forms in space. In the other two more elaborate variants of this theme Cézanne switches his viewpoint even more drastically, in a way that anticipates Cubist still lifes of 1908-09.
'Far from being at odds with the rest of the highly worked picture,
the 'unfinished' passage in the right-hand bottom corner plays an
important pictorial role. The transparency of the napkin provides a
necessary note of spontaneity and emphasizes the solidity of everything
else in the still life. It is also important to remember that Cézanne
never thought in terms of 'finished' pictures; he had the courage to
stop before killing a picture with a last fatal brushstroke.'
-- John Rewald