from the world's big
How Cézanne Saw a World in an Apple
Just as poet William Blake asks us “To see a world in a grain of sand” in his poem “Auguries of Innocence,” painter Paul Cézanne asks us to see the world in an apple in the many still lifes that span his long career. In The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne currently at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA, we’re invited to enter into the world of “the painter of apples” and come away with new eyes that see what Cézanne called the “ambient penetration” of all things, that living quality of even inanimate objects best captured in the still life, or as the French would say, “Nature morte,” literally and paradoxically “dead life.” Using one of the oldest of genres, Cézanne set the rules for the modern art that followed him while forging a naïve, simplistic persona the real philosopher in paint hid behind. After viewing The World Is an Apple, you’ll come away with a new appreciation not only of Cézanne the painter, but also of Cézanne the visionary who saw the whole world in even the simplest apple and wants you to, too.
Cézanne worked slowly. His deliberation during painting became legendary. Human subjects suffered long hours before his easel. The suffering of Madame Cézanne in portraits of her is almost laughably palpable. For practical reasons, inanimate objects—apples, pottery, skulls, mountains—provided much better subjects. As Dr. Benedict Leca, curator of the exhibition and Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, writes in the introduction to the show’s catalog, “Cézanne believed in the inner life of everyday objects ‘which disperse themselves naturally in and around each other through intimate reflections, just as us through our gazes and words.’” Things talk to each other, Cézanne believed, and he wanted to capture that conversation in his painting, especially in still lifes.
For example, in Still Life with Fruit and Glass of Wine (Nature morte avec fruits et verre de vin) (painted 1877-1879; shown above), the rounded lip of the glass as well as the bulbous shapes of the pottery in the rear “talk” to the plumpness of the fruit. Although the fruit glows brightly yellow and orange, the touches of green converse with the green touches of the otherwise white pitcher, bowl, and plate. Meanwhile the warmer colors of the fruit make them pop out of the picture as the cooler grays and browns of the table recede in the background, creating the illusion of movement. In a fascinating catalog discussion of the neurological, psychological, and even philosophical connections of Cézanne’s use of color, Paul Smith explains how this “modulation” of color “can (among other things) make the substantiality of objects visible.” Elsewhere, Leca calls Cézanne’s use of color a “sort of imagined transubstantiation” reflecting the artist’s “peculiar animist worldview in which people, the natural environment, and both living and inanimate things were seen by him as interconnected agents operating against the fabric of his life.” Like the Eucharistic transubstantiation of Cézanne’s Roman Catholicism in which bread and wine become body and blood, in Cézanne’s still lifes apples and vases become the people and places he loved. When Cézanne penciled a self-portrait beside an apple, you can see how he saw a similarity between even his own bulging, brainy forehead and the fruit.
As Adam and Eve discovered, the apple was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Cézanne turned the apple and its central role in his still lifes into his own delivery system of knowledge, specifically that knowledge about himself and his goals he cultivated for public consumption. Leca stresses Cézanne’s self-fashioning via still life throughout his catalog essay. “Comprised of chosen objects of personal significance pre-arranged and in turn deliberately painted,” Leca explains, “still lifes provided [Cézanne] multiple stages through which to construct a constellation of meanings around himself.” Still lifes become collections of “artifacts of the self” for Cézanne, Leca argues, “that could image Cézanne’s remembered past and at the same time narrate the journey of his artistic self-discovery.” A devout student of art and the science of seeing, Cézanne nevertheless cast himself as a naïve artisan in rustic clothing who painted more by natural intuition than by hard-earned intellect. In her catalog essay, Nina Athanassoglou-Kallmeyer points out that all of Cézanne’s still life props “are products of the [artist’s native Aix-en-Provence] region’s artisanal making,” just as “the stark simplicity” of his studio embodied the “artist’s stalwart ethos” in contrast to the lavish studios of his more establishment artist contemporaries in Paris. Similarly, Richard Shiff muses on the moral world of these still lifes in which the subject and the artist’s purity stand out as even Cézanne’s signature marking style took on (perhaps unintentionally) “a moral dimension” in opposition to the authority of the old ways. Young guns such as artist Maurice Denis elevated Cézanne to hero status. Denis’ painting Homage to Cézanne tellingly focuses not on the hero himself but rather on one of his still lifes, the subject of passionate discussion among a flock of admiring artists.
This small exhibition also focuses tightly on the still lifes gathered from various museum collections and private hands. Although small, the show is quite powerful, with the enlightening wall text pointing out the interplay of colors and shapes so that you can crack Cézanne’s code for yourself. You’ll find yourself looking at the paintings, reading the text, looking again for the connections, and then looking even longer to make more connections between the contents of one work as well as between the different works. For example, I’ve seen Cézanne’s The Artist's Father, Reading “L'Événement” countless times, but I’ve never made note of the still life hanging over the artist’s father’s shoulder. Seeing in the show that very same still life, painted in 1866, at the very beginning of Cézanne’s career, I recognize Cézanne’s inclusion of it in the portrait to be just as challenging and self-proclaiming as the placing of the liberal “L'Événement” in his conservative father’s hands. I also spent a long time looking at Cézanne’s late Vase of Flowers, in which he paints a real vase of flowers on a flower-covered carpet before a mirror reflecting the real and fictional flowers—an overabundant flowering of effects leaving you mesmerized not just by the shapes but also by the almost bubbling surface of heavily applied paint threatening to froth out of the frame. After a pair of beautifully rendered skull still lifes in oil—in which the apples of life magically transform into symbols of death before your eyes—the show closes with a heartbreaking watercolor of a skull nestled in flowered drapery, a juxtaposition of ponderous death balanced against the lightness of vegetating life that shouldn’t make sense but in Cézanne’s world beautifully does.
I’ll confess to minor annoyance at having to leave the exhibition room to seek and find through the Barnes Foundation’s permanent collection—arranged in the idiosyncratic manner of its namesake founder—the 16 more Cézanne still lifes that are part of their 69 total works by the master. I quickly kicked myself after happily falling into the “trap” the Barnes had set, either intentionally or unintentionally. Looking at the Cézannes in situ, in their rightful place in the current of art history, it dawned upon me that not only is the world an apple, but the whole world of modern art is a Cézanne. Picasso and Matisse are both credited with calling Cézanne “the father of us all,” but you don’t get the full sense of that patriarchy until you see a Cézanne still life beside a Van Gogh landscape in which the earth crackles with the same undulating energy of a tablecloth in one of Cézanne still lifes. Looking at the luscious flesh of one of the Barnes many Renoir nudes, I imagined the apples finally rolling off Cézanne’s tables and springing into expansive female life. I only wish that The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne could take the Barnes’ collection along with it on the road to give more people the enlightening experience the Philadelphia combination provides.
“Why do we divide the world?” Cézanne once asked a friend. “There are days when the universe appears to me as one single flow, an aerial river of reflections; of reflections dancing around man’s ideas.” In a discussion with Dr. Leca, he stressed to me Cézanne’s modernity in his nonstop, restless, almost multitasking approach to capturing the truth of what’s before our eyes, however fleeting. After some reflection, I’d add that Cézanne’s strikingly modern also in the sense of his personal “internet” of existence—an almost manic hyperlinking of present and past, inert and active, alive and dead—in which no individual is ever truly alone. After looking at The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne, you’ll never look at an apple (or a still life, or a Cézanne) in the same way ever again.
[Image: Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Fruit and Glass of Wine (Nature morte avec fruits et verre de vin), 1877-1879, oil on canvas, 10 1/2 x 12 7/8 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1950-134-32.]
[Many thanks to the Barnes Foundation for providing me with the image above from, a copy of the catalog to, and a press pass to view The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne, which runs through September 22, 2014.]
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Most marriages end in resentment. Why should longevity be the sole marker of a successful marriage?
In November 1891, the British sexologist Havelock Ellis married the writer and lesbian Edith Lees. He was 32 and a virgin. And since he was impotent, they never consummated their union. After their honeymoon, the two lived separately in what he called an open marriage. The union lasted until Lees’ death in 1916.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.