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The Scent of Orange in the Wintery Air: Portraits with Oranges

Vincent van Gogh, Still Life with Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves, 1889, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

Food

The Scent of Orange in the Wintery Air: Portraits with Oranges

What does winter smell to you like? For me, it’s the scent of cinnamon-spiced gingerbread, mulled wine, and of course mandarins. My grandma used to make Christmas decorations by spiking oranges with cloves, turning them into pomander balls. Aaaah, what a wonderful smell! In order to bring out some mandarin-scented memories, here comes a selection of portraits with oranges for this cold season:

Orange babies

Vincent van Gogh, A child with orange, 1890, private collection, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Vincent van Gogh, A child with orange, 1890, private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

The child is Raoul Levert, the two-year-old son of a local carpenter at the Auberge Ravoux in the village of Auvers-sur-Oises, where Vincent had been a lodger. He painted the boy during a short period of contentment before his death in July of the same year.

Lilla Cabot Perry, Portrait of a Young Girl with an Orange, 1901, private collection, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Lilla Cabot Perry, Portrait of a Young Girl with an Orange, 1901, private collection. ArtNet.

Lilla Cabot Perry lived in Japan with her husband between 1898 and 1901. There she had a chance to study Japanese art, such as fabrics and prints, in-depth, which allowed her to better comprehend the Impressionist fascination with it. While in Japan, she produced around 80 paintings.

Orange peelers

Mary Cassatt, Peasant Woman Peeling an Orange, c.1875, private collection, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Mary Cassatt, Peasant Woman Peeling an Orange, c.1875, private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

In 1874, Mary Cassat moved to Paris where she opened her own studio. She criticized the way of the French Salon and the conventional taste of the jury. Her fellow American painter, Emily Sartain wrote of her: “she is entirely too slashing, snubs all modern art, disdains the Salon pictures of Cabanel, Bonnat, all the names we are used to revere.”

Orange sellers

Joseph Farquharson, The Orange Seller, 1893, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Joseph Farquharson, The Orange Seller, 1893, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.

Joseph Farquharson was born in Edinburgh and is most famous for painting Scottish landscapes and animals. He spent several summers in Paris where he studied painting and in 1885 he traveled to North Africa, an experience which most probably inspired this work.

Joaquín Sorolla, Orange seller, 1891, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Joaquín Sorolla, Orange seller, 1891, private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

In 1890, Sorolla moved to Madrid with his family, where he focused on painting large canvases with mythological, social, or orientalist themes, which were later exhibited around Europe and in the United States.

Pierre-Auguste Cot, Pisan Girl with Basket of Oranges and Lemons,1871, private collection, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Pierre-Auguste Cot, Pisan Girl with Basket of Oranges and Lemons, 1871, private collection. WikiArt.

Pierre-Auguste Cot, as you can probably judge yourselves, was an exponent of Academicism. Having studied under Alexandre Cabanel and William-Adolphe Bouguereau, he made a successful entry to the Salon in 1863. The 1870s was the decade of his growing popularity and portraiture was definitely his forte.

Aleksander Gierymski, Jewish woman selling oranges, 1881, National Museum, Warsaw, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Aleksander Gierymski, Jewish Woman Selling Oranges, 1881, National Museum, Warsaw, Poland.

Aleksander Gierymski painted this poor woman in another painting, Jewess Selling Lemons. During World War II, the Nazis stole the version with oranges from the antique store it was in, and only in 2011 was the painting returned to Poland, having been purchased by the state from a private German owner.

Orange nudes

John French Sloan, Blond Nude with Orange, Blue Couch, 1925, private collection.
Portraits with oranges: John French Sloan, Blond Nude with Orange, Blue Couch, 1925, private collection. PoulWebb.

John French Sloan was one of the founders of the 20th-century American art movement called Ashcan School (or the Ash Can School), whose main focus was the depiction of real-life in New York, often its poor areas. According to scholars, Sloan was able to exceptionally capture the city’s “inexhaustible energy and life”.

Henri Matisse, Nude with Oranges, 1951, private collection, portraits with oranges
Portraits with oranges: Henri Matisse, Nude with Oranges, 1951, private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

In 1951, Henri Matisse completed his last painting ever. From then on, cut-outs became his sole medium of expression, until his death in 1954.

Inspired? Go get some oranges! Peel them and enjoy this lovely sweet and sour taste lightning the long winter evenings.


Here’s more paintings featuring delicious food:

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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