I know, I know, astronomical winter begins on the 21st of December but since Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over and all shops have changed their display windows to a reindeer mode, while some people have already put up a Christmas tree, I feel this week is the last chance to legitimately show you some autumnal stuff. As a goodbye to the season abundant in fruit and veg, here comes a selection of the tastiest autumnal still lifes:
Basket of chestnuts, cheese, mushroom and fruit
Paolo Antonio Barbieri is probably the less famous sibling (is it because he specialized in still lifes?) of his older brother Guercino, whose luminous depictions of biblical scenes were hugely successful. Paolo instead loved painting nature, excelling especially in painting fish.
Basket of fruit
“A painter can say all he wants to with fruits or flowers, or even clouds. You know, I would like to be the Saint Francis of still life”, said Manet and although he is famous for Olympia or scenes portraying Parisian life, still lifes represent almost one fifth of his oeuvre and were most welcome from everyone: “The most vociferous enemies of Edouard Manet’s talent grant him that he is good at painting inanimate objects”, noted Emile Zola in 1867.
Pumpkin, Plums, Cherries, and Figs
Ribot loved painting still lifes and kitchen scenes but because he worked as a decorator of gilt frames in a mirror factory in Paris, he had to paint at night. He painted this still life following Gustave Courbet’s principles of Realism: to render nature as it was, far from any idealisation (normally, the bulky pumpkin would probably have to be polished and smooth, like in the cover painting by Brueghel).
When after the Paris Cummune Courbet had to serve 6 months in the Sainte-Pélagie prison, his sisters often brought him fruit and flowers, which he began to use as subjects for painting.
Pears and grapes
On the contrary to Courbet, Gauguin railed against the prevailing Realist aesthetic (this one is however pretty realistic because it’s quite an early work). Once, when discussing with younger followers the transposition of an object to canvas, Gauguin lost his temper and pointing out a plate of apples, he shouted: “For goodness’ sake, that’s not an apple, it’s a circle!”. He produced circa one hundred paintings of circles, which stand for one-sixth of his total oeuvre.
Around 1913, the Fauve spontaneity of Matisse‘s previous compositions gave way to a more formal Cubism-inspired discipline, so visible in his still lifes.
De Chirico wrote once in regards to painting still lifes: “Only a talented painter when painting a still life, really captures the silent and still life of things created by nature or by men. A jug, so poorly-looking and insignificant that it goes unnoticed when put on a farmer’s table, in a good painting can become a fascinating object full of nobility.”