I am obviously going through a French period in my work, so I took advantage of a free guided tour of DC’s National Gallery’s newly opened French collection of 18th and 19th century masterpieces.
This is such a fascinating period of French history, so much turmoil and change occurred in those two hundred years. What is so clearly evident when you learn more about the background of any work of art, is to what extent the art produced was influenced by personal, social, political and global events.
Chardin had to contend with the most restrictive artistic parameters, largely dictated by the French Academy of Fine Arts which held a yearly Salon of what it deemed respectable, acceptable art worthy of being exhibited. Not only was the genre of still life considered to be at the bottom of the hierarchy of appreciated art, but a painter even had to conform with the style in which paint was applied.
By the time Cezanne came along, artists were going their own individual ways, though I found out on the tour that Cezanne actually submitted a painting a year for 40 years to the famed Paris Salon and was rejected each and every time!! Talk about persistence – I have to remember that next time I get rejected from a show!
I personally adore the still life paintings of Cezanne (another example from the National Gallery’s collection above). I could look at these gorgeous apples, plums and peaches all day long. A critic at the time was quoted as remarking that “Cezanne painted apples as others painted kings“. What a beautiful quote, and what a leap the lowly still life has made. Comparing my work with an icon like Cezanne is like comparing apples and oranges (couldn’t resist that one)….but I thought I would throw in this mixed media piece (painting and collage) I did about fifteen years ago, and a detail of a cherry painting :