Reflection on my research and the direction of my FMP.
Still life painting has the ability through symbolism and the viewers interpretation to give a narrative of thoughts and ideas. It also allows the artist to understand and challenge the essentials of art in the exploration of colour, form, composition and light on a single canvas. I think it should work well as a genre to create, as it can use personal objects to create a narrative. Audrey Flack produced Vanitas works traditionally still-life paintings featuring religious and moral symbolism through which she brought iconic photographic images from the past into new relationships with everyday perishables and chattels.
The Dutch set the standard for out-of-this-world virtuosity in the 17th century, and I really enjoy the unusual mix of objects the artists chose to depict, food of all kinds, polished silverware and gleaming glass, embroidered and heavily worked tablecloths, and a lot of flowers. The goal of a still life composition is to direct the viewer’s eye through a painting and lead them toward what the artist thinks is important.
Thinking how symbolic all of these objects were to the audience that had the occasion to view them all those years ago. It is also interesting to think that the artists often purposefully chose to depict items that might be a challenge to paint, as a way to display their painting skills. By creating this kind of ostentatious still life and particularly in the floral paintings which would depicted incredible bouquets. Most viewers couldn’t ever hope to actually see them in person or have in their homes. The artists were accomplishing two things One, pointing out the artifice of such displays as a reminder that life is not all about luxury and putting store in such things is futile. But they were also subverting that very message, by displaying such beautiful bouquets in the first place and tempting the viewers to buy the painting, essentially conveying the idea that you can’t have such luxuries in your real life, but this painting will and can give them to you, the banquets, the luxury, the flowers in this painting which will never die.
I think it should work well as a genre to create in I can use personal objects to explore and question the implied meanings of their use in a composition . Researching the Dutch Golden Age of painting the work of Clara Peeters , she stood out to me as a pioneer in the genre of the still life and one of the few women active as a professional painter in early modern Europe. A female who succeeded in establishing her self in what must have been competitive art market.
Still Life with Nuts, Candy and Flowers, 1611, in which the artist Clara Peeters is reflected several times in the metal pieces
Still lifes were a relative novelty at the time—they were not even given this all-encompassing term until the mid–17th century, instead being referred to in descriptive terms such as “flower paintings” or “breakfast pieces.” Her decision to not only specialize in this evolving genre—which was proving increasingly popular with collectors—but to also paint it in the new realist style rather than the high idealism of Peter Paul Rubens (which dominated the Antwerp art scene of the period) implies an innovative, forward-looking mentality. Peeters’s decision to paint cheese also suggests her acuity for commercial appeal. At the time, cheese and butter were major contributors to the Dutch economy and frequently appeared in still-life painting. Although a relatively inexpensive foodstuff eaten by all classes, if painted in a stack they could symbolize affluence, or even national pride, to the newly prosperous merchant class who were increasingly investing their wealth in art. She was known for her meticulous brushwork, sophisticated arrangement of materials, low angle of perspective, and ability to capture precisely the textures of the varied objects she painted. As one of the only female Flemish artists who exclusively painted still life’s in the 17th century, she was also one of the first known artists to incorporate self-portraiture into still-life paintings.(https://www.britannica.com/biography/Clara-Peeters)
still life by Clara PeetersStill Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries, oil on wood by Clara Peeters, c. 1625; in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
With the self-portraits Peeters is proclaiming herself as proud of being woman and painter. Also, it suggests that she knew about other works with reflected images, like Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait and Self-portrait in a convex mirror by Parmigianino.
Her self-portraits are in the surfaces of jars and glasses, but to see them you need to look very carefully. I enjoy the idea of “self promotion” within the objects it gives her painting an ownership and sets them apart from other still life paintings, as a female artist. It makes me curious if the patron of the piece was aware of it at the time of purchase, or if it was a secret until it was discovered by an analyst exploring the history of her works. With such little information about Peeters’s life, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions on her motivations as an artist. But the facts we do have suggest that Peeters was a forward-thinking 17th-century female painter who tried to stand out from the crowd.
Museo del Prado – Clara Peeters (biography)
Museo del Prado – The Art of Clara Peeters (the exhibition)