With The Basket Of Apples, Paul Cezanne revived the unfashionable genre of Still Life and breathed new life into the field. The 1893 work was an oil painting, but it subverted the genre basically by trying to be less slavishly accurate than previous artists.
On the face of it, it is a humdrum piece featuring a basket, apples, biscuits and a table. But it is inaccurate and that inaccuracy leads to its genius. Cezanne did not see art as an imitation of life, presumably his inaccuracies led to something better.
He recognized that artists were not bound by a requirement to reproduce life.
The Basket of Apples contains tilted tables and an impossible rectangle with no right angles. There is a sensation that the painting is rolling away to the left. It is strange, disorientating and addictive.
Still Life was an old fashioned genre and Cezanne appears to have found an opportunity to revitalise the form by finding ways to be playful and challenge received wisdom within the art world. This particular work became very influential.
Matisse also found fresh ground to plough through still life and subverting the form. Photography & cinema made painting a facsimile of reality a redundant form. A camera could do that. Artists needed to interpret something more. Cezanne started that. Arguably, Jackson Pollock and other contemporaries took it to its logical conclusion.
It might look at first that the artist is ‘bad’. A schoolchild would be told the error of their ways. But Cezanne is deliberate with this oddness. The table has the sensation of rolling away, the bottle looks drunker than anybody drinking the liquor and the biscuits are baffling but look like an early game of Jenga to my eye. Any amateur painter will tackle either the still life or the landscape at some point.
Artists like Turner had broken the rules of the landscape a century earlier. Just before the dawn of the 20th century Cezanne challenged your ways of seeing the world around you even more.