Three Pears, ca. 1888–90
In the 1860s and ’70s, Cézanne maintained ties with artists of his generation, including Monet, Renoir, Degas, and especially his mentor, Camille Pissarro. By the 1880s, however, he lived a much more reclusive life, centered on his home in Aix. Thus, his first one-man show at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery, in November 1895, which featured this work, proved a revelation to a new generation of avant-garde artists and critics as well as to the compatriots of his youth. Both Renoir and Degas were so enamored with Three Pears that they were forced to draw lots to determine who would buy it. Pissarro described their reactions to the exhibition in a letter to his son Lucien dated November 21, 1895:
[Cézanne’s show has] exquisite things, still lifes of irreproachable perfection, others much worked on and yet unfinished, of even greater beauty, landscapes, nudes and heads, that are unfinished but yet grandiose, and so painted, so supple . . . Curiously enough while I was admiring this strange, disconcerting aspect of Cézanne, familiar to me for many years, Renoir arrived. But my enthusiasm was nothing compared to Renoir’s. Degas himself is seduced by the charm of this refined savage, Monet, all of us . . . Degas and Monet have bought some marvelous Cézannes, I exchanged a poor sketch of Louveciennes for an admirable small canvas of bathers and one of his self-portraits.