A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life
Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) presents a new exhibition exploring the rich tradition of still life painting in A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life. Once considered the lowliest genre of painting, the still life has long been overshadowed in the history of art; in this exhibition, visitors will encounter examples from nearly 250 years of the tradition, from the 17th century of Dutch and Flemish painting to America’s Gilded Age.
On the surface, these picturesque arrangements are easy to appreciate for their aesthetic beauty and skillful rendering. A closer look at these sumptuous, calculated arrays of objects ranging from the mundane to the luxurious reveals moral undertones and allusions to the transience of life. The exhibition asks visitors to look closely and unearth meanings that resonate with them while considering the tradition of this once humble genre.
Special loans from the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Frick Pittsburgh, and several local private collections will be featured, along with recent bequests from the late Drue Heinz that include the first Golden Age still life in the museum’s collection: Still Life with Lemons, ca. 1660, a painting by Jacob Fopsen van Es that makes its debut in this exhibition.
“We are particularly excited to show the van Es painting,” says Akemi May, assistant curator of Fine Arts. “It’s a marriage of perfectly balanced composition and remarkable technical skill that embody this high point in the still life genre. You almost want to reach out and pick up the lemon peel.”
The exhibition is accompanied by two public events. On November 16, the museum hosts a free event featuring still life photographer Charlee Brodsky in conversation with May; they will discuss the history of the genre and Brodsky’s own practice. This is followed by a $10 hands-on still life composition workshop led by Brodsky, wherein participants will learn how to use lighting and framing to create a still life of their own.
A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life is curated by Akemi May, assistant curator, Fine Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art.