Still Life as Document and Symbol

Sill Life with e Turkey Pie, Pieter Claesz, 1627 - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands | Still Life | Wine and Painting | The Virtual Wine Museum

STILL LIFE WITH A TURKEY PIE

Pieter Claesz (ca. 1597-1661)

1627
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). 

17TH CENTURY

STILL LIFE WITH CHEESE Floris Claesz van Dijck , ca.1615 - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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STILL LIFE WITH A WINE COOLER Frans Snyders, ca. 1610/20 - Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain

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STILL LIFE Osias Beerl, 1617 - Palace of Versailles, France / 3

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STILL LIFE WITH GRAPES, APPLES AND A JUG Georg Flegel (attrib.), 17th Cent. beginning - Private collection

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STILL LIFE Clara Peeters, 1627/29 - Private collection

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SERVING TABLE Juan van der Hamen, 1631 - Private collection

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STILL LIFE WITH WINE GOBLET AND OYSTERS Pieter Claesz, 1639 - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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STILL LIFE WITH LIGHTED CANDLE Pieter Claesz, 1627 - Mauritshuis, The Hague, The Netherlands

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STILL LIFE WITH A ROEMER AND WATCH Willem Claesz Heda, 1629 - Mauritshuis, The Hague, The Netherlands

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STILL LIFE WITH OLIVES W-C. Heda 1634 - Mus. voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium, The Netherlands

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STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS, A SILVER TAZZA, AND GLASSWARE W-C. Heda, 1635 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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STILL LIFE W-C. Heda, 1651 - Private collection

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STILL LIFE WITH DRINKING-HORN Willem Kalf, 1653 - National Gallery, London

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STILL LIFE WITH FRUIT, GLASSWARE, AND A WANLI BOWL Willem Kalf, 1659 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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STILL LIFE WITH A GLASS AND OYSTERS Jan Davidsz de Heem, ca. 1640 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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STILL LIFE WITH GOBLET AND FRUIT Jan van de Velde, 1656 - Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, MA, United States

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STILL LIFE WITH WAFER BISCUITS (LE DESSERT DE GAUFRETTES) Lubin Baugin, ca. 1631 - Musée du Louvre, Paris

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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

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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.

18TH CENTURY

STILL LIFE Cristoforo Munari, 1709 - Gli Uffizi, Florence - Italy

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THE DEAD WOLF (LE LOUP MORT) Jean Baptiste Oudry, 1721 - Wallace Collection, London

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THE SILVER GOBLET Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, ca. 1728 - Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, United States / 3

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THE SILVER GOBLET Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, ca. 1730 - Fine Arts Palace, Lille, France

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SILL LIFE WITH JAR OF OLIVES (NATURE MORTE AU BOCAL D'OLIVES) Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1760 - Musée du Louvre, Paris

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GRAPES AND POMEGRANATES (RAISINS ET GRENADES) Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1763 - Musée du Louvre, Paris

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PEARS, WALNUTS AND GLASS OF WINE (POIRES , NOIX ET VERRE DE VIN) Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1768 - Musée du Louvre, Paris

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STILL-LIFE Luis Meléndez, 1770 - Museo del Parado, Madrid, Spain

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THE AFTERNOON MEAL (La Merienda, The Pic-nic) Luis Meléndez, ca. 1772 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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3. 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). 

19TH CENTURY

STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE, CARAFE, BREAD, AND WINE Claude Monet, 1862/63 - National Gallery of Art, Washington

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STILL LIFE WITH MELON AND PEACHES Edouard Manet, ca. 1866 - National Gallery of Art, Washington

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STILL LIFE WITH APPLES AND PITCHER Camille Pissaro, 1872 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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STILL LIFE Camille Pissarro, 1867 - Museum of Art, Toledo, United States / 4

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STILL LIFE WITH HAM Philippe Rousseau, 1870s - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS James Ensor, 1882 - Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium

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STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLES AND EARTHENWARE Vincent Van Gogh Nov. 1884 | Apr. 1885 - Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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THE DRESSER Paul Cézanne, 1877 - Fine Arts Museum, Budapest, Hungary

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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.

20TH CENTURY, 1st HALF - MODERN ART

STILL LIFE WITH WINE BOTTLE AND GLASS Edward Hopper, 1899 - Private collection

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THE BLACK BOTTLE Samuel John Peploe, ca. 1905 - National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

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POT, GLASS AND BOOK Pablo Picasso, 1908 - Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia

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STILL LIVE WITH GLASS, WINE BOTTLE, PACKAGE OF TOBACCO, AND NEWSPAPER Pablo Picasso, 1914 - Musée Picasso, Paris

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BOTTLE AND FISHES Georges Braque, ca. 1910/12 - Tate, London / 5

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STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE Umberto Boccioni, 1912 - Pompidou Center, Paris

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STILL-LIFE WITH A PIPE Chaïm Soutine, 1916 - Modern Art Museum, Troyes, France

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STILL LIFE WITH THE BOTTLE OF WINE (NATURE MORTE A LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN) Kisling, 1918 - Teien Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

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STILL-LIFE WITH A PIPE Georges Braque, 1919 - Private collection

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BOTTLES AND KNIVES (BOUTEILLES ET COUTEAUX) Juan Gris, 1911 - Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands

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STILL LIFE WITH NEWSPAPER Juan Gris, 1916 - The Phillips Collection

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JAR AND GLASS Juan Gris, 1916 - Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

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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

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BOTTLE, GLASS, AND NEWSPAPER Juan Gris, 1918 - Private collection?

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BOTTLE, WINE GLASS, AND FRUIT BOWL Juan Gris, 1921 - Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

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A BOTTLE AND FRUIT (UNE BOUTEILLE ET DES FRUITS) Juan Gris, 1923 - Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, United States

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KNIFE AND FRUIT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW Diego Rivera, 1917 - Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico, Mexixo

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STILL LIFE WITH FRUIT BASKET Braque, 1925 - Private collection

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STILL LIFE WITH GLASS OF RED WINE (NATURE MORTE AU VERRE DE VIN ROUGE) Amédée Ozenfant, 1921 - Kunstmuseum, Basel, Suisse

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BOTTLE OF ORANGE WINE (LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN ORANGE) Le Corbusier, 1922 - Le Corbusier Foundation, Paris

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THE BOTTLE OF WINE Joan Miró, 1924 - The Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain

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STILL-LIFE Fernand Léger, 1924 - Private collection

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THE BOTTLE OF WINE Pablo Picasso, 1926 - Beyeler Fundation, Riehen, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland

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STILL LIFE WITH GLASS OF WINE (NATURE MORTE AU VERRE DE VIN) Emile Othon Friesz, 1929 - Pompidou Centre, Paris

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STILL LIFE WITH A FIGURE Balthus, 1940 - Tate, London

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STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE OF RED WINE (NATURE MORTE A LA BOUTEILLE DE VIN ROUGE) Pierre Bonnard, 1942 - Private collection

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STILL LIFE Georgio Morandi, 1951 - Museo Morandi, Bologna, Italy

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In the 19th c., still life paintings were considered essentially documentary. In the 20th c. , 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.

 

5. 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.

20TH CENTURY, 2nd HALF - CONTEMPORARY ART

BOTTLES Nicolas de Staël, 1952 - Private collection

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STILL LIFE WITH GLASS Nicolas de Staël, 1954 - Private collection

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RED BOTTLES Nicolas de Staël, 1955 - Private collection

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STILL LIFE Nicolas de Staël, 1955 - Private collection

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THREE BOTTLES Fernand Léger, 1954 - Tate Moder, London

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'THEY LOOK LIKE TWO BOTTLES' (comment by the artist) Paul Fréour, 1973 - Private collection

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BREAD AND WINE (PAIN ET VIN) Claude Yvel, 1964

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STILL LIFE Georg Baselitz, 1976/77 - MoMA, New York

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STILL LIFE WITH RED WINE Roy Lichtenstein, 1972 - Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa, Japan

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BOTTLE WITH APPLE Gerhard Richter, 1988 - Private collection

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GLASS OF WINE (COPA) Tàpies, 1997 - Vivanco, Briones, La Rioja, Spain

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STILL-LIFE WITH BREAD AND WINE David Ligare, 2007 - Private collection

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IMAGINATION MEETS REALITY

The Magician (Self-portrait with four arms), René Magritte, 1952 - Private collection

LE PORTRAIT

René Magritte, 1935

Museum of Modern Art, New York City

«  .. Des visiteurs disent des trouduculeries habituelles : ‘c’est moins profond qu’avant!’, ‘c’est de l’esprit belge!  ... », ainsi René Magritte rendit-il compte à l’un de ses compères de la réception par le public d’œuvres qu’il venait de présenter. Comme dans Le Sorcier, Magritte, surréaliste, transforme une scène familière et banale en une peinture étrange, voire intrigante. Il "nous montre [comme dans toutes ses œuvres, NDLR] que la peinture peut être un écart situé entre la réalité visible et la représentation imaginaire" (Magritte, Marcel Paquet, Taschen, Cologne). Comme tout peintre, il a le pouvoir magique de copier la réalité tout en ayant le loisir de lui être infidèle. Il y a chez Magritte des éléments qui, en s’opposant, mettent l’esprit en éveil et conduisent à s’interroger.

 

Il juxtapose ici une tranche de jambon sur une assiette et, fixé en elle, en son centre, un œil qui nous regarde : est-ce une simple confrontation ou bien une invitation faite au spectateur à rejoindre la table ? Le mystère entre dans le quotidien. Le titre de l’œuvre joue également un écart supplémentaire : l’œil s’est emparé de la nature morte et évoque un portrait qui pourrait aussi être celui du cochon ou celui du convive prêt à passer à table. Le résultat est direct, déconcertant et troublant. Il nous pousse, au-delà du visible, vers "ce qui est caché par ce que l'on voit".  Magritte dépasse les apparences et donne une part de mystère au monde réel : "Je veille, dans la mesure du possible, à ne faire que des peintures qui suscitent le mystère avec la précision et l’enchantement nécessaire à la vie des idées".

 

Le fond bleu est là pour rappeler qu’il s’agit de peinture.

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