The subjects of this still life – human skulls and a floral patterned carpet – were used by Cezanne for several artworks during the period he painted this one. This piece in watercolour and graphite on woven ivory paper has a corresponding oil painting, Three Skulls on a Patterned Carpet
, 1904, which has a very similar composition, but completely different pattern and feel. The oil painting is heavily covered with paint, and uses dark tones, whereas his watercolour painting is characterised by a lightness of colour and paint application, leaving the paper exposed in areas and allowing his pencil lines to show through. Despite its memento mori motif, Cezanne’s choice of media and application imbues the piece with a bright tone.
The Three Skulls
Responsibly sourced, FSC certified paper and wood.
Date of work
Paul Cezanne The Three Skulls 1902-6 Watercolour, with graphite, on ivory woven paper 48 x 63 cm Presented by the Art Institute of Chicago, Olivia Shaler Swan Memorial Collection 1954.183
Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) was a French artist who played a pivotal role in the development of modern art. As a Post-Impressionist painter, he developed his own characteristic style, with exploratory brushstrokes and close study of his subjects, painting still lifes, landscapes and portraits. Though he did not achieve much recognition until his later years, his practice had a lasting effect on modern painting, with both Matisse and Picasso among the many artists that cite him as an influence. In 1924, Tate became the first public museum in the United Kingdom to acquire Cezanne’s paintings, and they remain an important part of the collection.