Still Life as Document and Symbol
STILL LIFE WITH A TURKEY PIE
Pieter Claesz (ca. 1597-1661)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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).
STILL LIFE WITH CHEESE Floris Claesz van Dijck , ca.1615 - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
STILL LIFE WITH A WINE COOLER Frans Snyders, ca. 1610/20 - Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain
STILL LIFE Osias Beerl, 1617 - Palace of Versailles, France / 3
STILL LIFE Clara Peeters, 1627/29 - Private collection
STILL LIFE WITH GRAPES, APPLES AND A JUG Georg Flegel (attrib.), 17th Cent. beginning - Private collection
STILL LIFE Georg Flegel, 1635 - Private collection
SERVING TABLE Juan van der Hamen, 1631 - Private collection
STILL LIFE WITH A GLASS AND OYSTERS Jan Davidsz de Heem, ca. 1640 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS, A SILVER TAZZA, AND GLASSWARE W-C. Heda, 1635 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
STILL LIFE WITH OLIVES W-C. Heda 1634 - Mus. voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium, The Netherlands
STILL LIFE W-C. Heda, 1651 - Private collection
STILL LIFE WITH DRINKING-HORN Willem Kalf, 1653 - National Gallery, London
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
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 / 16
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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3. Typical of the still life in fashion in the Netherlands and the Rhineland at that time. Only the piece of pie, the knife and the strawberry placed on the table give an inkling of a sense of life.
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).
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE, CARAFE, BREAD, AND WINE Claude Monet, 1862/63 - National Gallery of Art, Washington
STILL LIFE WITH MELON AND PEACHES Edouard Manet, ca. 1866 - National Gallery of Art, Washington
STILL LIFE WITH APPLES AND PITCHER Camille Pissaro, 1872 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
STILL LIFE Camille Pissarro, 1867 - Museum of Art, Toledo, United States / 4
STILL LIFE WITH HAM Philippe Rousseau, 1870s - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS James Ensor, 1882 - Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLES AND EARTHENWARE Vincent Van Gogh Nov. 1884 | Apr. 1885 - Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
THE DRESSER Paul Cézanne, 1877 - Fine Arts Museum, Budapest, Hungary
STILL LIFE WITH OINIONS Paul Cezanne, 1896/98 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris
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4. 'Don’t bother trying to look for something new: you won’t find novelty in the subject matter, but in the way you express it', Pissaro.
STILL LIFE WITH WINE BOTTLE AND GLASS Edward Hopper, 1899 - Private collection
THE BLACK BOTTLE Samuel John Peploe, ca. 1905 - National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE Umberto Boccioni, 1912 - Pompidou Center, Paris
BOTTLE AND FISHES Georges Braque, ca. 1910/12 - Tate, London / 4
STILL LIVE WITH GLASS, WINE BOTTLE, PACKAGE OF TOBACCO, AND NEWSPAPER Pablo Picasso, 1914 - Musée Picasso, Paris
KNIFE AND FRUIT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW Diego Rivera, 1917 - Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico, Mexixo
STILL LIFE WITH THE BOTTLE OF WINE (NATURE MORTE A LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN) Kisling, 1918 - Teien Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
BOTTLES AND KNIVES (BOUTEILLES ET COUTEAUX) Juan Gris, 1911 - Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands
JAR AND GLASS Juan Gris, 1916 - Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
BOTTLE, GLASS, AND NEWSPAPER Juan Gris, 1918 - Private collection?
STILL LIFE WITH THE BOTTLE OF BORDEAUX (NATURE MORTE À LA BOUTEILLE DE BORDEAUX) J. Gris, 1919 - Sammlung T. et A. Werner Coll., Berlin, Germany
BOTTLE, WINE GLASS, AND FRUIT BOWL Juan Gris, 1921 - Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland
BOTTLE OF ORANGE WINE (LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN ORANGE) Le Corbusier, 1922 - Le Corbusier Foundation, Paris
A BOTTLE AND FRUIT (UNE BOUTEILLE ET DES FRUITS) Juan Gris, 1923 - Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, United States
STILL LIFE WITH GLASS OF RED WINE (NATURE MORTE AU VERRE DE VIN ROUGE) Amédée Ozenfant, 1921 - Kunstmuseum, Basel, Suisse
THE BOTTLE OF WINE Pablo Picasso, 1926 - Beyeler Fundation, Riehen, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland
THE BOTTLE OF WINE Joan Miró, 1924 - The Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain
STILL LIFE WITH GLASS OF WINE (NATURE MORTE AU VERRE DE VIN) Emile Othon Friesz, 1929 - Pompidou Centre, Paris
STILL LIFE WITH A FIGURE Balthus, 1940 - Tate, London
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE OF RED WINE (NATURE MORTE A LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN ROUGE) Pierre Bonnard, 1942 - Private collection
STILL LIFE Georgio Morandi, 1951 - Museo Morandi, Bologna, Italy
BREAD AND WINE (PAIN ET VIN) Claude Yvel, 1964
STILL LIFE WITH RED WINE Roy Lichtenstein, 1970s?
GLASS OF WINE (COPA) Tàpies, 1997 - Vivanco, Briones, La Rioja, Spain
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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.
4. A traditional domestic subject matter again, with a bottle and fishes on a plate, laid on a table with a drawer: ordinary objects, but fragmented to form a grid-like structure.
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