Art Critique

Baroque period has revived the interest and the importance of the still life painting. Though still life was popular since the ancient times, during the Middle Ages it was considered to be the low-rank art. During the Baroque era, the best artist from all over the Europe united in their endeavor to resume the still life genre, which was then considered High Art.

Baroque still life is distinguished by its detailed true to life depiction of everyday objects, bestowing them with the power to evoke feelings and emotions. This was attained by means of deep color scheme, play of light and shadow, which created a dramatic effect of the painting. Unlike the Renaissance art, which provoked the audience to admire the beauty and calmness, Baroque painting created more tension and passion.

One of the great masters of still life painting of that time was Jan Davidsz de Heem. He was a Dutch painter known for his brilliant and realistic rendering of the objects. The most famous subject matter of his works is fruits and flowers. Flowers in Glass and Fruits is one of his still life paintings dedicated to this subject matter. The picture presents a rich bouquet of flowers in a vase, next to which there are also some fruits. In this painting, the author uses reach color palette typical for Baroque art to recreate the vividness and true–to-life depiction. On the dark background which creates the effect of the depth, stands out the accuracy of the portrayal of the flowers with all the mastery, detail and realism. The color scheme creates a certain mood and appeals to the sense of beauty evoking admiration. The picture seems to be moving and live, the moment that the author has captured has emotional and sensory fullness.

The still life painting bears also allegorical meaning, which the author has put into all his works, drawing attention to some virtues. His flower pieces are known to glorify the abundance of the beauty of nature in its diversity and richness. To underline this idea, he often added some minor elements to his works; in this case, it is a small insect, a dragonfly, placed at the bottom of the picture.

The picture can be compared to another still-life work by a Flemish Renaissance painter Jan Brueghel the Elder, Still-Life with a Bouquet of Flowers. Both works share the same subject matter, but at the same time can be contrasted to one another. Brueghel’s work seems more solidified, paying more attention to the beauty, which seem stiffer comparatively to the Heem’s work. The still life has also a rich color palette, but this palette seems more unreal and inanimate; it does not have the sense of depth that Heem’s picture presents. Both still lives present rich bouquets of flowers in a vase, but the inner meanings of two pictures are different. Brueghel’s work, which is a Renaissance picture, is more concerned with aesthetic effect and pays attention to the curdled beauty, whereas Heem’s picture glorifies the richness of the earthly wealth, supporting it with complement of fruits and insects in his piece.

Jan Davidsz de Heem’s picture, as it is typical of the Baroque art, focuses on the transmission of the emotional effect and passion, which is achieved by means of color, light and shadow. At the same time, it is very realistic and detailed, but this realism does not hinder the perception of meaningful depth and allegory of the painting.

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