7 September 2008 - 4 January 2009
The Magic of Things
Still-Life Painting 1500-1800
The fascination of still lifes lies in their close-up view of a few, often
unchanging objects rendered with extreme painterly sophistication. The
still life, once on the lower rungs of the artistic ladder, was often used to
demonstrate an artist’s skills, the appeal and value of a work being
based on the quality of the composition, the meaningful combination of
objects and the refinement of the brushstroke. In early modern times,
however, the still life became much more than a mere exercise in style.
It often served to make a moral statement and to encourage reflection.
The Vanitas in particular was meant to remind us of the fleeting nature
of life, a universal thought individually rendered by the objects chosen
to symbolize it.
In European art, the still life looks back on an extraordinarily rich and
enduring history of some five centuries. First attempts in the late middle
ages led to the genre’s golden age in the 17th century, when it achieved
astonishing quantitative and qualitative heights especially in the Netherlands.
It has since enjoyed a commanding renaissance in the art of the
20th century. The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum traces the developments
of the still life and its variations in the Northern and Southern Netherlands
as well as in Germany from its birth in the late 15th century until