Parrish Art Museum Presents American Still Life

American Still Life: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum includes more than forty paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from 1871 to the present. American Still Life, the third in a series of exhibitions drawn exclusively from the Museum’s permanent collection, explores the many ways in which generations of American artists have approached the subject of still life painting. Open through November 28, 2010.

“Still life painting has traditionally been regarded as a ‘lesser art’ when compared to the loftier subjects of religious and history painting, landscape, and portraiture,” according to Alicia Longwell. It was not until the sixteenth century in Holland that the trappings of everyday life became seen as worthy subjects for artists, and the resulting paintings became valued objects.

The still life became an important feature in American colonial painting. In 1871, a youthful William Merritt Chase chose a still life subject to demonstrate his prodigious technique. Still Life with Fruit (1871) acknowledges European models but has “a rustic simplicity that is purely American,” according to Longwell. Still Life with Cockatoo was painted ten years later and reflects Chase’s study at Munich’s Royal Academy and exposure to the virtuoso brushwork of European Old Masters.
For those mid-twentieth-century artists associated with realism—including Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, Robert de Niro, and Nell Blaine—the still life offered abundant opportunities to depict the concrete world in visual terms. A number of artists have chosen their own studios as subjects: Fairfield Porter in Painting Materials (ca. 1949), Philip Guston in The Visitors (1975), Jane Freilicher in Bottles of Linseed Oil (1967), and Jim Dine in Little Blue Palette (1963). For Roy Lichtenstein the object, no matter how ordinary, was of primary importance. Among contemporary artists, Joe Zucker, Dan Rizzie, and Donald Sultan have redefined the still life, bringing an active engagement with surface and texture to the forefront and affirming the ongoing future of the genre.

The exhibition includes, in addition to the artists mentioned above, Barbara Bloom, Warren Brandt, John Button, Nicolai Cikovsky, Michael Combs, George Constant, Peter Dayton, William Glackens, Robert Kulicke, Robert Lazzarini, Li-lan, Sheridan Lord, Henry Muhrman, Larry Rivers, Casimir Rutkowski, Raphael Soyer, Michelle Stuart, William Aiken Walker, Fred Wilson, and Jane Wilson.

Organized by Alicia Longwell, Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator, Art and Education

Image: Sheridan Lord (American, 1926-1994 Still Life, September May 1985 and December-May, 1986 Oil on canvas 28 x 38 inches Promised Gift of Pamela S. Lord and Alex Maynard

The presentation of American Still Life: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum and its accompanying programs are made possible, in part, with generous underwriting support from Corcoran Group Real Estate.

Major support is provided by Barbara Slifka and Helene B. Stevens.
Additional funding is provided by Brenda Earl and Allison Morrow.

The Museum’s programs are made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

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