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I love you, Pumpkin!

Halloween Special

I love you, Pumpkin!

It is this time of the year where colour orange rules the world (of course when it’s not the grey skies and rain). Everything turns various shades of orange, leaves, grass and most importantly of all – the pumpkins take over. As Halloween approaches shops are full of them, but it’s not only shops, pumpkin has made its way into art too.

Yayoi Kusama (Photo: courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York, and KUSAMA Enterprise; © Yayoi Kusama) - pumpkin

Yayoi Kusama. Photo: courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York, and KUSAMA Enterprise; © Yayoi Kusama

I love the word ‘pumpkin’, it has certain bounciness to it. Try saying pumpkin quickly ten times, it will bring a smile to your face. It comes from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for “large melon”. Pumpkin is also good for you, like carrot, being the source of vitamin A. We should all be carrying pumpkins proudly, like the girl below.

Fausto Zonaro, Young Girl Carrying a Pumpkin, Sakıp Sabancı Museum - pumpkin, Halloween

Fausto Zonaro, Young Girl Carrying a Pumpkin, Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Pumpkin has a special texture, which clearly seems interesting to the painters. The combination of quite hard skin with supple and soft flesh providing the challenge to painter’s skills. In the below painting the pumpkin also provides a welcome warm counterpoint to the cold colours of remaining objects. Creating the main tension line with the blindingly white jug.

Théodule Ribot, Still Life with Pumpkin, Plums, Cherries, Figs and Jug, ca 1860, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Vincent van Gogh decided to opt for a more symmetrical composition. Two jars and two pumpkins, it would be dull if he decided to stick to the perfect symmetry, but he instead decided to stay closer to imperfect nature, both jars and pumpkins retaining their own distinct features.

Vincent van Gogh, Still Life with Two Jars and Two Pumpkins, 1885, private collection

Here we have a bit more cheerful take on the pumpkin. Bodegón (Spanish for tavern or pantry) is a Spanish term for still-life painting. Always set with items of food as if waiting for the cook to come and start their work. This genre became very popular in Spain in the first half of 17th century.

Juan van der Hamen, Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, 1625, Museo del Prado

To get us in the Halloween mood and give you some inspiration, let’s look at few works of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. For seven years now, they have been carving those beautiful orange veggies for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, creating their Artists Series. Below you can see a few examples. This is how inspiring vegetable it can be!

Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, maniacpumpkincarvers.com

The tradition of jack-o’-lantern is associated with the story of Stingy Jack, who managed to trick the devil, but in the process also tricked himself. Jack was one of the few characters (Faust, Pan Twardowski) that managed to trick the devil. It makes one question the devil’s level of intelligence when we read those stories, but then the tricksters are usually also punished in the process, sacrificing more than they bargained for.

Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, maniacpumpkincarvers.com

Here is some more reading you may find interesting this autumn:

Pumpkin Spiced Yayoi Kusama

Mushroom Picking? The Tastiest Mushroom Art

Meet Asparagus, The King Of Vegetables – Not Only For Vegetarians!

A Small Guide To Still Life Symbols (Part 1)

Art historian by education, data geek by trade, art and book lover by passion, based in London in love with Europe and travelling around it. You can visit my book blog here: https://bookskeptic.com/

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