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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

Classical Painting: The Basket of Apples

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

The Basket of Apples By Paul Cezanne, 1895 Oil on canvas Still life painting

My theme for Classical Painting was to make my own version of a still life. The painting I selected was a still life oil painting on canvas by Paul Cezanne from 1895 entitled The Basket of Apples. I intended on focusing on the details of the image particularly with the lighting and in re-creating the scene as closely as I possibly could with the props that I had.

What looks like a simple composition is actually much more challenging. The artist did not accurately represent the objects as they would have appeared in a real space. Cezanne is known for his odd cropping and the disjointed perspectives between the different elements in his paintings. This painting in particular merges several viewpoints into one image. This is evident in the tilted wine bottle, the angle of the biscuits, the tilt of the basket, the lines in the tablecloth and the table itself is an impossible rectangle with no right angles, it combines 2 different viewpoints.

A realistic still life could never possess the characteristic found in the elements in this painting. The objects in relation to each other do not add up or make sense. This style of painting was a common exploration of objects in space during the Impressionist and Cubist art movements. This was not an easy task for a photographer to re-create.

I photographed my set up of the still life at different angles and different exposures. I also moved my light around to try to get the shadows in the right spots. Photoshop played a large role in this project to re-create this scene. My plan initially was to combined multiple images to composite pieces together to get a similar altered perspective as seen in the painting. As I was working in Photoshop, I started to play with textures and I thought about where the line between painting and photography was and how I could blur that. Is a photograph still a photograph if I add textures, filters and other effects that make the image seem more like a painting? I think it is still a digital image that started as a photograph, but I don’t know that it is still a photo.

I started with the same Photo in Photoshop for each of my 4 images and I approached each one differently. For my first attempt, I softened the texture and clarity using Adobe Camera Raw. The second image I started to composite different sections of different photos together. The wine bottle is tilted, the shadow under the table is more accurate as is the red stripe in the fabric. Again, texture and clarity were softened, but an angled stroke and a grain filter was applied to this image as was a background blur and colour adjustments. The third approach is the closest to the original digital image that I started with in Photoshop. It is the most realistic to a still life that you would see in real life. In this image, I increased the texture and applied a film grain technique. The glare and reflection in the wine bottle has been manipulated and the red stripe in the fabric has a texture brush applied to it to give it a worn appearance. The fourth image has the same adjustments as the third image, but with a palette knife filter applied on top to enhance the blur and the painterly quality.

I felt like this was a good problem-solving exercise as a way to come up with different solutions to the same problem. Each time I built a new image I learned what was working and what wasn’t. The goal of the project was to find the props and style to come as close as you can to the story that the original artwork was telling.

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