Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life

Brillo Boxes, 1964, by Andy Warhol 
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
25 Nov 2015

Philadelphia Museum of Art


Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life

October 27, 2015 – January 10, 2016

Brillo Boxes, 1964, by Andy Warhol

Brillo Boxes, 1964, by Andy Warhol
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life encompasses nearly two centuries of the most intimate, intricate and varied genre of painting practiced in the United States.  The exhibit surveys the history of American still life from the early days of the nation to the emergence of Pop Art in the early 1960s.

Still life painting is an enduring genre that reflects history and culture.  The exhibition begins with the late 18th and early 19th – century painters who were interested in precise visual description.  Included in this grouping is the work of John James Audubon who combined art and science to create pieces such as Carolina Parrot (about 1828) which depicts a species now extinct.

Carolina Parrot

Carolina Parrot © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; photo: Travis Fullerton.

Paintings from the Victorian era explore the pleasures of the senses and sensuality.  Vivid floral still lifes and tables overflowing with nature’s bounty exemplify a spirit of newfound prosperity and abundance.

 

Painting of Flower Still Life with Bird's Nest

Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest, 1853, by Severin Roesen

“Still life is an important subject that continues to fascinate us today. It can be a meditative study of a single, small object and yet also serve as a metaphor for the world. The story of American still life begins in Philadelphia, and we are delighted to have an opportunity to share this exhibition with our audiences. This is the first major show of its kind in more than thirty years and brings together works of great beauty and historical significance from collections around the country.”

-Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer

The idea of power and modernity in the still life can be seen in the work, Rolling Power (1939) by artist Charles Sheeler.

Painting: Rolling Power, 1939, by Charles Sheeler

Rolling Power, 1939, by Charles Sheeler

 

The exhibition concludes with Pop Art icons including Roy Lichtenstein’s Still Life with Goldfish (1974).

 

Painting Still Life with Goldfish, 1974, by Roy Lichtenstein

Still Life with Goldfish, 1974, by Roy Lichtenstein
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

The exhibition is arranged in small groups to encourage comparison and discussion just as the still lifes that were hung in the Victorian parlors and the New York City saloons.  The exhibit uses themes such as music, literature, popular media, and science—including tangible ephemera such as bird specimens, magazines, and pocket watches to bring forward the immediate inspirations and contemporary contexts of the art.

 

 

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Museum Excursion

A lover of all things museum, writing to make your cultural excursions more meaningful.

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  1. Trump and terrorists got you down? The sprawling 20th-anniversary show at Baltimore’s wild and wacky American Visionary Art Museum may provide the antidote you need.

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