The Green Vase
Oil on canvas (about 1900)
"Best known as a painter of dream-like, often darkly themed subjects, Odilon Redon produced hundreds of brilliantly colored floral still lifes in the last 16 years of his life. Although seemingly a simple painting of a bouquet of flowers, the vase hovering in space and the powdery surface place the subject somewhere between dream and reality. Redon was closely associated with the Symbolist movement and its fascination with the subconscious and the imaginary.
This vertically formatted painting depicts a still life. Simply composed, the painting features a double-handled green vase centered on a reddish-brown table or ledge filled with a bouquet of varied red, pink, purple, white, and yellow flowers. Behind the still life is a blank wall that shifts from gray-blue to golden-brown hues as the eye travels upwards. The vase casts a subtle shadow on the table/ledge. The paint is applied thinly and sparingly in small, loose brushstrokes."
Books on a Table
Oil on canvas
John Frederick Peto
John Frederick Peto painted still life arrangements almost exclusively, a choice likely inspired by its strong tradition in his native Philadelphia, begun almost a century earlier by the Peale family.
Books on a Table presents a variety of objects associated with a gentleman's study. Precariously balanced, the arrangement suggests contemplation, if not lament, of the end of the 19th century. The quill pen and candle mark technologies that were antiquated by 1900. The magically turning pages of the book at the apex of the composition invoke the passage of time. The isolated and neglected objects may also symbolize the painter himself, who created his art in virtual seclusion.
Still Life, 1638
The 17th-century Dutch viewer would have recognized this softly illuminated still life as a representation of wealth and prosperity. The artist demonstrates his skill at depicting the various textures and reflections on the surfaces of these luxury items: a half-filled wine vessel; a silver or pewter platter and overturned cup-on-stand; a small, Chinese porcelain bowl; and a lemon, with its elegantly spiraling peel. In the porcelain bowl are wild strawberries, a delicacy typically enjoyed with French wine. The recent and seemingly abrupt departure of the person enjoying this light meal suggests the theme of vanitas, reminding us of the fleeting nature of all wealth and pleasure in our mortal state.