Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Classics of Still Life. Vanitas, Ontbijt, Pronkstilleven

Vanitas referred to paintings including symbols to remind us of the transience of life, e.g. skulls, hourglasses, extinguished candles, crawling insects, decaying flowers or fruits.

Back in mid 2009, I started experimenting using tricky lighting and my own household objects to produce Still Lifes. I was very encouraged by the aesthetic quality of the images which have produced lots of praise.

By early 2010 I was then experimenting with textures to give these images a more painting like look. They also got lots of praise both online and in a couple of exhibitions I attended.

Now in 2011, I wanted to take it to the next level: images that more closely resemble the classic Ontbijt (breakfast) pieces of Willem Cleasz Heda, Pieter Claesz, Willem Kalf (pronkstilleven or ostentatious still life) or Luis Melendez’ Bodegones.

This is not particularly easy because the Dutch Masters painted about the riches of their patrons, therefore, the objects they use were very luxurious and rare even at that time. The images at right are typical Ontbijtjes or `Little Breakfast`. Please note that they did NOT reflected a typical Dutch breakfast at the time.

Holland was burgeoning from international commerce and their Asian colonies in the XVII century. Dutch merchants and the new rich, indulged commissioning paintings that displayed their newly acquired riches from exotic far away places.e,g Ming plates from China, Turkish rugs, Japanese katanas, Salt, Pepper, expensive glasses, gild goblets, purple silk,etc. Now you can understand why producing images with similar objects is difficult. However, with some creativity and some key pieces I think I got close enough. Here are some of my attempts at this. These works were called Pronkstilleven or `Ostentatious Still Life`.

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