Three fruits, three painters

It is amazing how different visions can interpret one simple subject in innumerable ways. Each artist utilizes his or her own conceptions and imaginations to visualize a subject. The result is striking originality within similar subjects. An instance of such is a simple case of three fruits. The artists are Ozias Leduc, Stanley Cosgrove, and Laurie Justus Pace, three vastly different artists belonging to three diverse eras.

Ozias Leduc’s impressionism

Ozias Leduc painted The Three Apples, in 1887. One of the earliest impressionists of Quebec, Leduc’s depiction of simplistic scenes and everyday objects characterizes a spirit that is intrinsic to Canadian art. He belonged from a poor background[i], and his subjects evoke and symbolize the honesty and simplicity that such a life offered to him. Even though these subjects were taken from daily life, Leduc placed them in their own little beautiful worlds. This rendered him to be one of the most renowned impressionists, and his works hold a special space in Canadian arts.

Leduc initially worked with cardboards[ii], and his simple subjects like books and apples brought him immense recognition. In The Three Apples, the subject matter is simple as well. But it appears to belong in a world of its own, evoked through color and dimension. The subject’s placement aids in creating a sense of dimension, even though the scale is normal. The depth is formed through a foreshortened placement of the subject. The eye-level view of the subject further brings a feeling of ordinariness. Concentration falls upon the subject because of its central positioning within the frame. The table’s placement is horizontal to the viewpoint. Its edge, parallel to the frame, acts as a form of repoussoir, aiding the viewer to concentrate on the subject. A repoussoir is something found along the frames of a canvas, which motivates our eyes to shift towards the central subject. Space attains further geometric symmetry through the circular key subjects. Dimension and depth are not only evoked by the table’s shape and positioning, but also through colors and brush strokes. The dense application of the oil medium for background enhances depth, with even brush strokes rendering it to be uniformly black. This aids focus to fall directly upon the main subjects. The foreground layers are thin, reflecting light. This evokes a sense of radiance which is enhanced by the softness of the colors.

Stanley Cosgrove’s innovations

Stanley Cosgrove’s Three Mangoes strikingly contrasts the previous work. Painted in 1943, the only similar aspect between them is the subject. However, unlike Leduc, who conformed to impressionism prevalent during that era, Cosgrove developed his own way of independent art[iii]. The subjects in the two works are similar, but the approaches are completely different. Cosgrove gives a vertical viewpoint of the subject, eradicating any possibilities of depth. Such placement also renders the background to attain minimal space in the frame. The tray and the dish contrast in color with the fruits. This plays crucial role in highlighting the main central subject. The yellow fruits on the white dish appear highlighted over a tray that has darker shades of blue. The contrast is further enhanced by the yellow edges, followed by darker background shades. Therefore, color applications are more vibrant here. The flatly viewed parallel lines would have appeared dull without such contrastive colors. The circular design of the key subjects of fruits and dish appear highlighted because they are surrounded by parallel layers. Therefore, color, shapes, and positioning play a very different role here for attaining an objective similar to the previous work, which is, highlighting the key subject.

Laurie Justus Pace’s expressionism

Contemporary artist Laurie Justus Pace’s Lemons deviates even further in terms of artistic language. Like Leduc, she presents the subject through a horizontal viewpoint and color application is also contrastive. But the interpretation style differs vastly. The fruits are spread all around the middle ground, colors are not applied uniformly, and there is no repoussoir. In both the previous works, there were elements acting as repoussoirs. While here, there is none. However, all the three works have similar usage of color and medium for the main subject, reflecting light, and ensuring that our eyes are drawn toward the fruits.

What can be noticed is how the interpretation has gradually transformed from impressionism to an intense form of expressionism. The first work conforms to the way the subject can be observed from the viewer’s viewpoint. The second work takes liberty in viewpoint but to a certain extent abides by a realistic milieu by properly depicting each form. The third work discards every sense of form apart from the lemons. Even the line of distinction between foreground and background is hardly definite. The emotion that the artist expresses takes supremacy here.

These three works, similar in content, showcase, how still life art has altered over the decades.


[i] Patricia Godsell. Enjoying Canadian painting. (Toronto: General Pub. Co, 1976), 107.

[ii] Patricia Godsell. Enjoying Canadian painting. (Toronto: General Pub. Co, 1976), 107.

[iii] Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson. Art and Architecture in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), 544.

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