The 1600’s saw an explosion of still lifes in the Netherlands. Their ships were returning with cargo from the far East, India, China, Japan. Filled with exotica, porcelain, shells, and plants, these merchant ships not only brought foreign treasures but, wealth to the merchant class. Their acquisitive appetites included still lifes with exotic flowers, flowers from every season tucked into a single bouquet. Their enthusiasm for new optical devices like the camera obscura, the telescope, and the microscope also gave them a craving for scrupulous scientific observation. Their still lifes reflected this attitude. Example 1 presents a festoon of fruits and flowers painted in 1660 by the Jan Davidsz de Heem.
A century later in 1755 Jean Simeon Chardin considers the same subject but, recasts it more humbly with a new, soft unifying light across an ordinary shelf. He has moved from a multiplicity of singly described flowers to a unified expression more casually composed.
Speeding through time we arrive in 1869 to find the still lifes of Henri Fantin Latour, friend of Whistler and Manet. His still lifes have brighter atmospheres and the casual feeling of an encounter with a domestic environment decorated with flowers and fruit. The painting, “Betrothal Still life” heavy with symbolism offers sexual allusions through cherries, strawberries and wine along with a plucked white virginal rose.
example 3. Fantin’s still life.
This floral still life tradition gets turned inside out and completely reconsidered in the work of Cezanne. Here painted flowers and painted wall and tabletop all merge onto one flat surface. This is no longer only about illusion. Here is painting which synthesizes our parallax vision, our sense of touch, the history of still lifes, and the self-awareness of difference between paint and illusion. The vase is solid, the flowers are thick and substantial like the walls and even the darks of the shadows.
Next is my take on a floral displays. I wandered through Portland, Oregon’s rose test gardens looking for luminous explosions of color framed within simple compositions. The luminosity appears most strongly when the subject is backlit giving the flowers a corona of light penetrating their thin petals. Example 5 is my original unedited photograph. I drew a fuchsia circle around the area of the photograph which would be cropped and manipulated in example 6. Example 6 shows the effect of amplified color and horizontal blurring. Example 7 shows the original image to be over-painted. A the substrate it offers colorful textures. And, I like its palette. Example 8 presents step one of the painting process, the lay-in. Example 89 presents the painting in its present state. Here, I exaggerated the feeling of light devouring edges of the flowers and merging with the background. I exaggerated dark/light and complementary color contrasts. I sustained some of the photograph’s blurring effects but, reined them in along selected edges. The composition relies on a vertical serpentine form.
I want to invite you to join me in Sun Valley Idaho at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (ask for Sarah Kolash at 208 726 9491 ext 121 or email@example.com). The dates are Thursday -Sunday October 1-4, 2015 with a maximum of 12 students; $675. Check out the Arts Center at www.sunvvalleycenter.org.