CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

A perspectiva das coisas: a natureza-morta na Europa

In the presence of things: four centuries of European still life paintings (part I) Exhibition: 12 February - 2 May 2010

Information from the museum, 23 December 2009

This ambitious international loan exhibition devoted to Still-Life Painting in Europe is the first of its kind to be organised in Portugal. It includes major works by some of the best-known European painters from the beginnings of the genre in the 17th century to the mid-20th century. Due to the wide range and high number of paintings on show , the exhibition will take place in two times. The first one, dealing with artists from the 17th and 18th centuries opens February 12th 2010. Part 2, devoted to 19th-20th century still Life Painting will take place 16th October 2011- 8th January 2012.

The show will explore the abiding themes of still life across nearly four hundred years; the fruit piece, the game piece, kitchen and banquet still lifes, the café scene, the flower painting, and the trompe l’oeil. The diversity of artistic treatment of these themes in different countries will be shown through related works, such as the fruit still lifes of the female artists Louise Moillon and Fede Galizia; the kitchen scenes of Jean-Siméon Chardin and Luis Meléndez; and the subjective interpretations of arrangements of objects by Picasso, Morandi and Ben Nicholson.

The exhibition will examine the wide-ranging cultural and social significance of paintings of objects and foodstuffs, without the presence of the human figure. Still-life subjects contained diverse meanings for different audiences; it was not the same to paint or to view, for instance, depictions of the familiar and the exotic, the genteel and the humble. The double-edged meaning of still lifes will be exposed; reassuring images of material contentment could also contain moral messages concerning abundance and consumption. The exhibition will include examples from the rich tradition of the Vanitas still life, in both Roman Catholic and Protestant cultures. The allegorical still life will be shown to continue in the modern period, through pictures whose meaning depends on the range of personal associations embodied in the represented objects.

The main focus of the exhibition is on the still-life painting as a work of art and the artistic motivations of their authors. The first part of the exhibition, ‚ÄúThe Golden Age of Still Life‚ÄĚ, will illustrate the myriad ways in which artists were inspired by the idea of the still life as imitation of nature. A wide range of paintings will demonstrate the virtuosity of 17th-century painters in response to this fundamental aesthetic challenge.

The second section of the show, ‚ÄúTradition and Innovation‚ÄĚ, concentrates on still-life painting in France. A number of pictures from the 18th century show the conversion of the idea of imitation into academic doctrine and, against this backdrop, the emergence of the greatest specialist of the period, Chardin. A compelling counterpoint is provided by the paintings of the Spanish artists, Luis Mel√©ndez and Francisco de Goya. Goya‚Äôs revolution in his incursion into still-life painting lies in breaking with the traditional imperative of providing an objective imitation of perceived reality. It is no accident that Goya died in France, where his innovations in the genre were taken up in the modern period and which is the subject of the next part of the exhibition (Part 2), opening October 2011.

>Both exhibitions will be accompanied by generously illustrated catalogues in Portuguese and English, with contextual essays by leading specialists in the field.

The catalogue

The exhibition catalogue (Part I) contains entries for all of the works in the exhibition. The different sections of the show are introduced by contextual essays, written in a scholarly, yet accessible form, by specialists in the field:

The Still Life in Europe
General introductory essay (Peter Cherry)

The Golden Age of Still Life
The still life in Italy & Spain (Peter Cherry)

The Northern still life (John Loughman)

Tradition and Innovation
Still-life painting in France (Lesley Stevenson)

The Scientific Curator

Peter Cherry studied History of Art at the University of Essex and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where he wrote his doctoral thesis on Spanish still life. He is Lecturer and Head of Department of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin.
His research centers on Spanish art, with a particular interest in still-life painting. He co-curated the following highly successful exhibitions, Spanish Still Life from Vel√°zquez to Goya, with William B. Jordan, The National Gallery, London, 1995; Luis Mel√©ndez. Bodegones, with Juan Luna and Natacha Sese√Īa, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid ‚Äď The National Gallery of Ireland, Dubl√≠n, 2004. Among his publications in the field are the following: Luis Mel√©ndez. Still-Life Painter, Fundaci√≥n de Apoyo a la Historia del Arte Hisp√°nico, Madrid, 2006; Luis Mel√©ndez. La serie de bodegones para el Pr√≠ncipe de Asturias, with Carmen Garrido, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004; El bodeg√≥n en las colecciones del Museo Cerralbo, Museo Cerralbo, Madrid, 2001; Arte y Naturaleza. El Bodeg√≥n Espa√Īol en el Siglo de Oro, Fundaci√≥n de Apoyo a la Historia del Arte Hisp√°nico, Madrid, 1999.