"The Touchstone of the Painter"
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
The history of Still Life painting is a long one. Artists have always painted still life, either as an end in its own right or part of a larger composition. Examples have been frequently found in the tombs of ancient Egypt, where depictions of things belonging to this earthly life were designed to help the passage of the dead into the next, as well as being found in the frescoes of Pompeii, as seen in the example below.
For this Challenge we would like you to first have a look at the examples in the gallery of images we have compiled below – take in the composition, the viewpoint of the artist – is he/she looking straight on or from above (or below). How has colour been used – is it natural or artificial to make a colourful painting, or if in black and white how has that been used to define different objects.
Then, having absorbed the compositional and colouring elements, take inspiration from that to arrange your own still life – with as many or as few elements as you like – and then consider your view-point. Use photographs to help you. Cézanne famously combined several viewpoints in the same painting. Use this opportunity to experiment with colour, with mark-making – be it with brush, pencil or pen. You don’t even have to completely cover the picture with paint – look at Cézanne’s watercolour and unfinished painting in the first row of the gallery.
You could even look at one of these paintings – or find your own online – and, as did David Hockney when he looked at Van Gogh’s “Chair”, re-interpret it in your own way, as you can see below.
Our Still Life Gallery
And for an insight into Van Gogh and Still Life below is a short video from the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany from their exhibition on Van Gogh’s Still Lifes that ran from October to February 2nd 2020 (in English and German with subtitles) – you can see more of that show here.
A reminder again that we now have a dedicated Instagram page where you can follow along – follow us and spread the word – anyone can join in!
We are using #novusgreatartchallenge – add it to any pictures you paint or draw and post on your own pages!
and of course our Facebook page where entries will be posted
We are looking forward to seeing you entries!