On view in Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks from Switzerland, Camille Pissarro‘s Quarry, Pontoise is a lush, peaceful scene. After the Franco-Prussian War, the artist moved from Louveciennes to Pontoise in the rural Oise Valley, where he lived from 1872–82. He chose the hamlet of l’Hermitage for almost his entire stay, inspired by its streets, fields, and countryside. Here, Pissarro shows a woman with a basket walking past a quarry on the arcing path of the rue de l’Hermitage, which leads to the Saint-Antoine ravine. In this area 25 miles northwest of Paris, Pissarro painted side-by-side with Paul Cézanne from 1872 to 1874. Both artists greatly admired and influenced each other. Cézanne claimed to be a pupil of Pissarro and stated: “Perhaps we all come from Pissarro.”
Paul Cézanne painted almost 200 still lifes over the course of four decades. By the late 1870s, he focused on household items, such as clusters of fruit, cloth, and a vessel. In 1879, Cézanne produced a series of 11 still lifes, each arranged on a chest set before bluish floral wallpaper. Rudolf Staechelin purchased Glass and Apples, at left above, in 1918.
Painted over a decade later, The Phillips Collection’s Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears by Cézanne (above right, and on view in a gallery adjacent to the special exhibition) shares formal motifs with the Staechelin example, including a display of fruit set on furniture before similar wallpaper. Both paintings were formerly owned by Impressionist artists: the Phillips still life was in Claude Monet’s collection, while Staechelin’s canvas was featured in Ambroise Vollard’s first solo show of Cézanne’s work in 1895 and shortly thereafter purchased by Edgar Degas for 400 francs.
Close inspection of the two works side by side also reveals a key difference. While Cézanne keeps the focus in the foreground in Glass and Apples, the artist adds depth and complexity to Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears by including a second table in the upper left portion of the painting as well as an artfully arranged piece of patterned cloth that hangs along the top edge of the composition.