A hundred years modern still life painting
May 2012 - December 2015
An inspiring selection of paintings from the Bueler-Bernard collection that explores still life painting throughout the last 100 years. Some 50 paintings have been selected by 20 different artists who have uniquely placed the classical genre into a new perspective.
In the 20th century, Modernism became a vehicle to observe objects in a different way. Individual expression started to take precedence over traditional formalistic painting; opening-up the field to endless possibilities. Cent anys del bodegó modern celebrates the artistic achievements which fill the gaps that the canon of the 20th century had left behind on its path of rapid artistic progress.
Enjoy some highlights!
oil, on canvas, 50x60cm
Although the unusual birds-eye perspective gives a clear view over the still life, the far end of the arrangement seems to start to dissolve into the background. This ephemeral quality creates a harmonious dialogue between the objects. An undulated rhythm dominates, as many of the objects have curved contours, counterbalanced by the chequered blue Dutch tea towel. The magical setting is enhanced by the fish that seem to look as though they are alive, creating a fascinating play on the still.
Table of Memories Gone by, 1993
oil, on canvas, 154x200cm
This painting holds a key position in the oeuvre of Miguel Ybáñez. At the one hand it points at the philosophy by which Ybáñez fathoms the riddles of multidimensionality and at the other it visualises his rational for doing so; penetrating into a spatial frame in which present, past and future fuse into timelessness (somehow like entering into dream consciousness).
Within the grey tones of the still life, in the lower part of the image, remnants of shapes that are in the process of losing their materiality flow into one another. Between the lower and the upper part of the still life runs a broad, dark, horizontal dividing line, which forms a table-like structure on the brim of which a disintegrating still life is eccentrically draped.
Studying the title, we could suppose the objects to be symbols of memories, which fade over time. Time then decays, while space loses its dimensionality. We witness how object bound existence transcends into pure self-being.
Nocturnal Reflections 2 Anticipating reflections with anguish in boo: Cages for a passionate song. , 1991
oil, on panel, 64x99cm
This painting is part of a series of five paintings entitled Nocturnal Reflections that is part of a larger body of work entitled The Four Seasons of Reflection. Nocturnal Reflections has a contemplative character. Deep blue dominates the series. In art, this shade of blue has often been used. It was, for example, the signature colour of German Romanticism (late 18th century). The colour derived from the fictitious blue flower, which stood for desire, love, and a metaphysical striving for the infinite, values which could also be applied to Nocturnal Reflections.
Observing Nocturnal Reflections 2, a dynamic relationship can be noted between the already vanishing foreground structure, and the silhouettes that these structures leave behind in the background. The painting could serve as a metaphor for our own experiences and memories that fade away over time. A process of an erasing memory: showing the future memory of the past.
Still life of kalmia in a vase, 1921
oil, on canvas, 49x36x-cm
This small painting shows off the potency of Zandleven’s pointillist style at its best. A rhythm is created by thousands of varying dots and dabs of thick luscious paint; a vibrant picture surface in which the still seems to come to life. Although an expressive painting, it maintains great attention to detail. Zandleven has set the painting in a timeless context; it is a depiction of something ordinary, a bouquet of flowers in a vase. This is precisely where the artwork’s strength lies; the painting celebrates the effortless beauty of nature and our primordial urge to reproduce it.
gouache, on paper, 19x26cm
The small work depicts a clever fusion of figuration and abstraction, focusing on the dematerialisation of form. It is rare to see an artist display the process of simplification in one painting. Separating the composition we can see that the right hand side depicts a green plane with depth and recognidable elements visible, such as the orange fruit and the shading of the surrounding area. In contrast, the left hand side, with its highly abstract and almost constructivist tendencies, would hardly be described as a still life. The distinction between the two sides of the painting can also be noted in terms of colour use; the abstracted plane has been painted in much paler colours. However, In spite of their subtle differences, both parts lock into each other effortlessly, creating a beautiful visual exchange.
One other such synthesis of abstraction and figuration can be found in the still lifes of Jan Mulder, also in the collection.
It is interesting to note that on the rear of the small still life the artist created a simple pencil drawing of a Christmas scene. This type of dualistic depiction is called a recto verso.
oil, on panel, 44.5x35cm
This still life shows a highly original composition of two roses in an almost abstracted vase. Van Heel draws attention to the background where a curious contour of a looming cockerel has been painted. The artwork is charged with erotic symbolism. The red rose might stand for lust and the pink one for tenderness; both are positioned provocatively within the impudently shaped vase. The cockerel too, has a humorous albeit erotic connotation.
Looking at the way the artist simplified imagery, Picasso may have had some influence on his work. But van Heel remained an unregimented character who continued to reinvent his own artistic practice.
gouache, on paper, 54x72cm
gouache, on paper, 50x64.5cm
Material qualities have almost entirely been removed from the composition. The overlapping of rectangles creates an unusual geometry and realistic notions of perspective have been eliminated; there is no vanishing point and the only notion of perspective is expressed by the tops of the vessels which have been given rounded rims.
It is the interplay of lines that draw attention and the chain of lines links the objects together. Conceptually speaking, one could say that these strokes represent the traces of the movement of objects that are habitually passed around a table. Demonstrating the dynamic potential of objects; suggesting that objects are never actually still.
oil, on canvas, 46x54cm
Mulder’s transition from figurative to abstract painting can be clearly observed in this exquisite still life. One could say that the transition was a natural one. The still life is set against a backdrop that is made up of colourful, fluid, intangible, abstract formations that almost blend into one another. The composition in the foreground seems to be in a state of deconstruction and starts to take on similar qualities as the shapes in the background. As familiar forms lose their importance, background and foreground lose their conventional distinction from each other.
It is interesting to note that the still life has been re-worked by the artist at a later date; testimony of the thoughtfulness with which the artist worked.
oil, on canvas, 63x60cm
Martinez demonstrates his expert way of handling perspective. We obtain an unusual, bird’s eye yet slanted view of this elaborate still life painting. The composition is tilted to such an extent that some objects are positioned on the very edge of the table; the decorative blue cloth is draped over the side, the lemon is about to roll off and the cigarettes look as though they are sliding towards the viewer. In addition to perspective alterations Martinez simplified his subject by creating strong rational volumes that seem plastic in appearance rather than textured. The plastic finish could be owed to its stylistic similarities to the Art Deco movement, as characteristic clean lines are prevalent throughout the painting. The cool and crisp palette gives the work a modern finish.
oil, on MDF, 25.5x21.5cm
The poppy takes on a magisterial character in this painting. The ethereal qualities of the flower that only lives for a day are accentuated. The almost celestial character is hightened by touches of light that can be observed around the edges of the flower, as the poppy has been backlit dramatically.
The painting displays a poetic symphony of lines that create a vibrating surface, especially in the green part, below the flower head. Some budding poppies can be observed lower down by its stem, but these are engulfed by the dance of lines. Rather than describing the work as figurative, it would be more appropriate to say that out of abstraction a recognisable form emerges.
oil, on canvas, 48x58cm
The still life in the collection is one of three still lifes painted in close succession that features the same fruit bowl. Although each is rendered in a different manner, his emblematic treatment of form and muted colour scheme is visible in each one.
The painting at hand was described by the artist’s wife as the masculine version of this singular theme. All non-essential detail is purposefully disregarded to concentrate on pure form. Perspective is flattened and therefore the background takes on an almost equal role to the foreground. Even the jug, seen along the right-hand edge, starts to merge into the background.
untitled, year unknown
watercolour, on paper, 39x48cm
This classical still life water colour has been painted in a fluid expressionistic fashion. The flowing quality shows evidence of great skill because errors cannot be covered up using water colours. Objects are simplified but they are still recognisable. The backdrop, on the other hand, has been abstracted further and plays with pronounced and unpronounced pattern. The main examples are the clear diamond design in the top right-hand corner versus the stripy patterned table cloth, which gradually starts to blur. On the whole, the composition has been painted in a realistic colour scheme, though blue-grey hues dominate that are counterbalanced by the warmth of the orange tones of the fruit.
oil, on canvas, 175x98cm
This painting was created in the summer of 1984, while Ibañez was house-sitting the townhouse of the French painter and art critic Macavoy. In its studio, Ibañez created this artwork together with a small number of other still lifes. Observing carefully, all parts of this composition permeate a red glow; even the beautifully draped blue cloth on the floor contains touces of red. A distorted perspective has been adopted as the table top is set at a relatively sharp incline. In the stillness the vibrating colours seem even more intense. We are led from the table to the background, which has been simplified and may leave us wondering what might lie beyond the broadly painted cross on the wall which takes up such a prominent position. Baring in mind other paintings by the artist of the period, perhaps the still life contains ecclesiastical significance.