October 27, 2018

Still Life as Document and Symbol

STILL LIFE WITH A TURKEY PIE

Pieter Claesz (c. 1597-1661)

1627
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

 

 

 

As though to prove the importance of wine and the vine in art, many artists have given these elements pride of place in still life compositions, whether symbolic or decorative. This dates back to Antiquity, as shown by the vine and grape motifs in mosaics and frescoes unearthed in the Vesuvius region of Italy. Still life began to emerge as a definable genre at the end of the sixteenth century. It would explode in popularity during the seventeenth century.

“Still life was to occupy the majority of the artistic space and the profusion of added elements adopted different aspects, evoking the opulence of well-stocked tables overflowing with food, crockery, people and animals… from a point of view which was both documentary and symbolic” (Source: Musée du Louvre).

 

Certain 17th-century works bear witness to contemporary dietary habits and beliefs: the lemon, ubiquitous in certain Dutch still life paintings, was believed to counteract poisons hidden in gold and silver tableware. Wine was thought to aid the digestion of melons, peaches and other fruit; while oysters were said to “awaken the appetite, the desire to eat and to share one’s bed, and [to be] as beneficial to those of a joyful character as those of more delicate disposition...” (Johan van Beverwyck, 1651). On a less prosaic level, the lemon symbolises the bitterness of existence and, when peeled, evokes the passage of time (the oysters, which can’t be conserved, convey much the same message). 

17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES

STILL LIFE WITH CHEESE
Floris Claesz van Dijck , ca.1615 - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
STILL LIFE WITH GRAPES, APPLES AND A JUG
Georg Flegel (Attrib.), 17th Cent. beginning - Private Collection
STILL LIFE
Clara Peeters, 1627-1629 - Private Collection
STILL LIFE WITH A GLASS AND OYSTERS
Jan Davidsz de Heem, ca. 1640 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
SERVING TABLE
Juan van der Hamen, 1631 - Private Collection
STILL LIFE
Pieter Claesz, 1641 - Cincinnati Museum of Art, Ohio, United Sates
STILL LIFE WITH OLIVES
W-C. Heda, 1634 - Mus. voor Schone Kunsten, Gand, The Netherlands
STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS, A SILVER TAZZA, AND GLASSWARE
W-C. Heda, 1635 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
STILL LIFE
W-C. Heda, 1651 - Private Collection
STILL LIFE WITH DRINKING-HORN
Willem Kalf, 1653 - National Gallery, Londres
STILL LIFE WITH WAFER BISCUITS (LE DESSERT DE GAUFRETTES)
Lubin Baugin, ca. 1631 - Musée du Louvre, Paris
STILL LIFE WITH CHESS BOARD or THE FIVE SENSES (NATURE MORTE A L’ÉCHIQUIER ou LES CINQ SENS) L. Baugin, 1630 - Mus. du Louvre, Paris
STILL LIFE
Georg Flegel, 1635 - Private collection
STILL LIFE WITH A WINE COOLER
Frans Snyders, ca. 1610/1620 - Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain
THE DEAD WOLF (LE LOUP MORT)
Jean Baptiste. Oudry, 1721 - Wallace Collection, London
SILL LIFE WITH JAR OF OLIVES (NATURE MORTE AU BOCAL D'OLIVES)
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1760 - Musée du Louvre / 13
GRAPES AND POMEGRANATES (RAISINS ET GRENADES)
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1763 - Musée du Louvre
PEARS, WALNUTS AND GLASS OF WINE (POIRES , NOIX ET VERRE DE VIN)
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1768 - Musée du Louvre

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13/ Diderot published reviews of the Salons from 1759 to 1781. He described Chardin as an illusionist who could make people believe that “a porcelain vase is made of porcelain”. He recognised “Nature herself” in Chardin’s paintings, and objects “real enough to fool one’s eyes” (Claude Frontisi, Histoire visuelle de l’art, Larousse, 2005). This work was exhibited at the 1763 Salon.

19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES

STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE, CARAFE, AND BREAD
Claude Monet, ca. 1862/1863 - National Gallery of Art, Washington
SILL LIFE (NATURE MORTE)
Camille Pissarro, 1867 - Museum of Art, Toledo, OH, United States
SILL LIFE WITH ONIONS (NATURE MORTE AUX OIGNONS)
Paul Cézanne, 1896-1898 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE
Umberto Boccioni, 1912 - MNAM, Paris
KNIFE AND FRUIT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW
Diego Rivera, 1917 - Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico, Mexixo
BOTTLES AND KNIVES (BOUTEILLES ET COUTEAUX)
Juan Gris, 1911 - Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands
BOTTLE, WINE GLASS, AND FRUIT BOWL
Juan Gris, 1921 - National Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland
A BOTTLE AND FRUIT
Juan Gris, 1923 - Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, United Staes
STILL LIFE WITH GLASS OF WINE (NATURE MORTE AU VERRE DE VIN)
Emile Othon Friesz, 1929 - Pompidou Centre, Paris
STILL LIVE WITH GLASS, WINE BOTTLE, PACKAGE OF TOBACCO, AND NEWSPAPER Pablo Picasso, 1914 - Musée Picasso, Paris
STILL LIFE WITH A GLASS OF RED WINE (NATURE MORTE AU VERRE DE VIN ROUGE) Amédée Ozenfant, 1921 - Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland
THE BOTTLE OF WINE
Joan Miró, 1924 - The Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE OF RED WINE (NATURE MORTE A LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN ROUGE) Pierre Bonnard, 1942 - Private Collection
BREAD AND WINE (PAIN ET VIN)
Claude Yvel, 1964
STILL LIFE WITH RED WINE
Roy Lichtenstein, 1970s ?

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In the 19th century, still life paintings were considered essentially documentary. In the 20th century, artworks of this type – whether futurist, cubist, surrealist or hyper-realist – were seen more an extension of the artist’s personality, an expression of style and individual talent.

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