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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson


Some of you know that I have not been in a good 'headspace' recently. I have a few issues going on at present, in addition to a physical injury that has laid me somewhat low. Fortunately, I have managed to keep painting, not always possible during hard times.

You may also have noticed the absence of a July Newsletter on this blog. I had anticipated some big news to tell this month, but it has not happened.

Today, without any hint of flippancy, I want to talk about fruit.

As the son of an artist mother who sowed within me the seeds of a passion for art, I have always been deeply drawn to the still life paintings of Paul Cézanne. Even as a boy, the artist's style in these pictures gave me a tactile sensation inside which persists to this day when I look at them.

STILL LIFE WITH A CURTAIN. Paul Cézanne, c 1898

The fecund fruit, the white cloth that is flowingly rumpled while also seeming bizarrely static, the lovely jug with its blowsy flowers, the curtain with its design reminiscent of Cézanne's beloved Provence hills, the perspective that is vertiginously off-kilter; all these elements coalesce in a heady cocktail of bucolic sensuality.

How could an artist not be beguiled and seduced by fruit? Real fruit that is, not the prostituted wax-doused simulacra that sit on supermarket shelves, but ripe, rotund, proud and fragrant specimens, bursting with the sun's sweetness.

One of my favourite paintings in the Tate Modern, London is Picasso's DISH OF PEARS (1936).




Properly and pedantically, the accompanying dish of apples that is also in the picture should be acknowledged in the title, but who cares. I adore this painting, with its probably-bone-handled-knife stuck upright to the left of the dish (reminding me of the table knives of my childhood), the pears that seem to have eyes, the glorious lozenges of the crockery's shape, the defining cream mass with which Picasso triumphantly encases the fruit, and last but by no means least the quasi-baroque swirls with which the artist has adorned the wonderful frame.

I risk the ignominy of the alarm's shriek every time I strain across the gallery wire, in order to shiver with pleasure at Picasso's handling of the paint at close sight in this deeply sensual canvas.

Fruit is symbolic. It contains the seeds that usher in progeny. If one is so inclined, one might view that symbolic fruit as sinful. I am not so inclined. Fruit is perfumed, soft, swelling and ripe. It entices. It rewards with its tactile splendour, its sweet flavour, its nutrition and its healing properties. Fruit provides the artist with inspiration for Still Lifes that are alive with Real Life.

Look at the intense movement that Van Gogh brings to his pears in the 'not-so-Still-Life' below; the background that sweeps up and to the left, the fruits that seem to swirl and jostle, strangely amorphous, but with that characteristic twisted stem of the 'Williams' Pear; and every one of them kissed by the sun. The mass of richness resembles a litter of kittens, freshly born.

STILL LIFE WITH PEARS - Vincent Van Gogh, 1887-8

To finish, let us take the post-digestive tonic of a lemon, in the magnificent hands of Henri Matisse; luscious, acid-sweet, accompanied by a shining spoon and a cooling glass.

STILL LIFE WITH LEMON - Henri Matisse 1917

Art is a fruit that grows in man, like a fruit on a plant, or a child in its mother's womb.” Hans Arp.

Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023


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Unknown member
Jul 16, 2023

I love this reflection on these images of fruit, and how uniquely they are crafted. The appeal of this fruit is evident and indeed alluring, sensual and supremely tactile.

On fruit as a symbol, here are some reflections inspired by yours in this article: We commonly - and symbolically - use this idea of fruit in our collective language: the fruits of our labours; the fruit of the womb; bringing something to fruition.

Fruit can be the beautiful, nourishing result of our efforts and creativity - the useful solution to a problem, the effective expression of what we deeply care about. I agree - far from being a sinful temptation - this ‘fruit’ is surely the aim of our…

Haydn Dickenson
Haydn Dickenson
Jul 17, 2023
Replying to

Such thoughtful and illuminating words. Thank you.


Jul 16, 2023

Great post. I learned somethings :)

Haydn Dickenson
Haydn Dickenson
Jul 17, 2023
Replying to

Thanks so much!

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