still life in motion

Still Life with Commode – Paul Cézanne – 1887-1888
Harvard Art Museum

Still Life.
staple food
in the artist’s pantry

teaches much about how he sees

I painted one – age 8 or so.
Quite sure that it was bad,
thus I’ll say no more about it

but I bet someone saw beauty. Then.

add a dozen years
I know it alllllll
and don’t tell me that I don’t

life has fired me hard within its kiln

Still Life.
Still Bad.
only I didn’t paint it this time

A “Master” Did

Look at it!
the bowl, all warpy – less than round.
table legs that don’t match up

simple, even ugly – yet I’m inexplicably drawn

clearly the work of a child,
not a master painter.
or maybe… something in common?

there’s more to life than meets the eye

the post-impressionists
rejected realism – believing
different angles and vivid colors bring new views

are children much different?

before “real life” insists
that only one perspective matters,
they dream, play, and paint in freedom

untethered by adult sensibilities

three more decades come and gone
reclaim now my innocence lost
realism has proved less than real

Still Life moves faster than I’d ever dreamed


Realism is the precise, detailed and accurate representation in art of the visual appearance of scenes and objects. Realism in this sense is also called naturalism, mimesis or illusionism. Realistic art was created in many periods, and it is in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization.

Post-Impressionism is an art movement that developed in the 1890s. It is characterized by a subjective approach to painting, as artists opted to evoke emotion rather than realism in their work.

In his paintings, Cézanne often rejected realistic portrayals of space in favor of more creative compositions. This is particularly evident in his still-life depictions, which frequently feature fruit, bottles, and other everyday objects balanced on tilted, topsy-turvy tabletops. In these paintings, Cézanne played with perspective and flattened surfaces to show the same arrangement from multiple angles at once. He achieved this by emphasizing each individual object rather than the scene as a whole, culminating in eye-catching, off-kilter compositions.

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