There’s no better way to understand an artist than to walk a mile in his shoes. This is one of many studies I’ve made of Paul Cezanne’s Vase de Fleurs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
A grand version of the idea I’m promoting is visible here, complete with bird’s nest. A close inspection of the actual painting would also reveal insects. Dutch artists loved to paint still lifes filled with living (and crawling things). Ants were very popular. Some of the roaches who make occasional appearances at my apartment may sometimes be found wandering through my still life? Perhaps. Though if I ever see them, I shall choose not to paint them.
Notice that the Dutch 18th century artist (this National Gallery of Art painting is by Jan van Huysum) likes the same orange that I do!
A still life within a still life is visible in the reproduction of a Dutch 17th century still life that lays inside the blue and white Chinese bowl. What strikes me about this set up is the contrast between the brilliant yellow and the black floral cloth. I also like the red cloth as it appears through the blue compotier. That would be wonderful to paint! These distortions of patterns as seen through glass make a wonderful subject.
Looking at the Dutch painting, one sees how orderly the construction is. The strong order of the Dutch idea in contrast with the dramatic heaping, confusion of my still life reveals something in itself about differing aesthetic sensibilities over time.
On the right,there’s a chalk board leans against the wall with some writing visible. It is itself a commentary on mark making.
Making a still life is an art too — before the painting begins. Some beginning artists try to make a painting task simpler by creating a still life of a very few objects. However, there’s something to be said for a bold statement and a riotous confusion of things. There are so many subjects for painting in this one set up alone, so many angles of vision, juxtapositions of color, different textures, different patterns.
Arranging objects like this can be a primer for interior design too (for obvious reasons). There’s some bold color combinations that one wouldn’t at first thought put together. But don’t they look good? The brilliant yellow and dark, rich, black floral cloth. Strong opposition of red and green. Lots of food for thought and feast for the eyes.