Still Life 2018 CALENDAR

A painting called a “still life” in English would be a nature morte (dead nature) in French. Both terms refer to paintings in which the subject is dead: animals, plants, crockery or other inanimate objects. Still-life motifs were included as accents in history paintings, then developed into an independent genre from the sixteenth century on. The still life, which allows the artist to arrange unchanging motifs at will, has been a prime experimental platform for artists from the Modern period on. We hope that you will enjoy the worlds of still lifes, permeated with the individuality of the Western and Eastern artists who created them.

1 January

Still Life

Raoul DUFY

Still Life

c.1915-20, Oil on canvas

Blue was a critically significant color to Dufy, who grew up in the port city of Le Havre, France, and he used it effectively in many of his works. In this painting, blue covers much of the picture plane, accentuating the colors of the fruit. The yellow bananas are depicted as though seen from above, while the two boxes filled with red strawberries and cherries are rendered using a slightly distorted linear perspective and the depiction of the two strawberries outside the box is flattened. Dufy, who was influenced by Impressionism and Fauvism, began to be interested in Cubism around 1909. The manner in which he addressed geometric forms and created a flattened pictorial space in this painting makes use of effects he learned from Cubism. From the 1920s on, Dufy created his own jaunty style.

2 February

Bottle of Marc de Bourgogne, Wineglass, and Newspaper

Pablo PICASSO

Bottle of Marc de Bourgogne, Wineglass, and Newspaper

1913, Oil, sand, and newspaper on canvas

Marc, in the title of this work, is a brandy distilled from the residue of grapes after pressing, a famous local product of the Bourgogne region. We see the letters “MAR” in the center of the painting. The bottle that would have held the marc is indicated by cutting up a newspaper that has been painted brown and pasting the pieces of paper on the canvas. The French word for newspaper is journal; we see the letters “JO” and “NAL,” separated by the bottle. From about 1908, Picasso explored the principles of Cubism, analyzing the subject into basic geometric forms and synthesizing them on the canvas. In about 1913, he began working in collage, attaching paper and other materials to the canvas. In this work, the contrast between the the collage and broad black lines on the gray background generates a harmonious whole.

3 March

Lemons and a Melon

YASUI Sotaro

Lemons and a Melon

1955, Oil on canvas

Yasui died in 1955 after overstraining himself by painting out of doors despite having caught cold. This still life dates from that last year of his life. It was around 1930 that Yasui established his own distinctive styles in portraiture and landscape painting. In the early 1930s, he went on to develop another unique style in the still life as well. He later produced many still lifes of fruit heaped on a large plate, on a tabletop, from the 1940s until his death. These works combine a stable composition, forceful contours, and vivid colors. Late in his life, Yasui played a public role as the chairman of the Japan Artists Association. He showed this painting in an exhibition sponsored for the construction of a facility in which to display the Matsukata Collection, which the French government had agreed to return to Japan. Ishibashi Shojiro acquired this painting at that exhibition.

4 April

Bowl and Milk-Jug

Paul CEZANNE

Bowl and Milk-Jug

c.1873–77, Oil on canvas

Cézanne began working in the still-life genre early in his career, exploring the architectural qualities and sense of volume of forms in the picture plane. In a still life, the artist could arrange his subjects - the fruit, dishes, and other items - himself, and then they remained still, motionless, forever. Nor were they disturbed if he altered their forms or changed how they were arranged in composing a painting. Looking closely at this work, we see that the left side of the milk container and the right side of the bowl are both painted to parallel the left and right edges of the painting. This is a good example of his altering forms to make the composition more stable. What may have set Cézanne wrestling with the still life from about 1870 was, in part, the influence of the still lifes by the eighteenth century French painter Chardin, which had just been bequested to the Louvre.

5 May

Still Life with Plaster Torso

Henri MATISSE

Still Life with Plaster Torso

1927, Oil on canvas

In the majority of Matisse’s works, the subjects are the human figure or interiors with windows. For this artist, however, still lifes were another important theme. Matisse’s interest in the masters was demonstrated by his purchase of Cézanne’s Three Bathers (1879-82, Petit Palais, Paris) from his own dealer, Ambroise Vollard, in his early period. This work appears to be related to the plaster figures that appear in still lifes by Cézanne. That said, the use of vivid, decorative color to which Matisse turned after moving to the south of France shows us the artist groping for his own distinctive style.

6 June

Still Life with a Cat

FUJITA Tsuguharu

Still Life with a Cat

1939-40, Oil on canvas

Fujita produced this work during his brief third visit to Paris, in 1939, before he returned to Japan shortly before Paris fell to the Germans. The table laden with all sorts of foods might suggest fond memories of an age of abundance, free of war, but the subject matter also has religious significance, as well as showing the influence of traditional still life painting in Western art. The bird in flight and the cat hunting for its prey, however, are depicted in a characteristically Japanese style, while the black background functions to emphasize the planar quality of the painting as a whole rather than a Baroque sense of light and shadow.

7 July

Peaches

Pierre BONNARD

Peaches

1920, Oil on canvas

The Intimist still life used commonplace, everyday interior items as motifs. This painting does, however, have its puzzling elements. The platter piled with peaches seems to project a bit above the table. It is not clear where the edge of the table, at which the tablecloth hangs down, is. The quadrilateral shape drawn at the lower left only hints at the existence of the table. The eponymous peaches are thrust high in the composition, with light striking them from the right; half the peaches are thus in shadow. The tablecloth, which occupies a prominent position in the painting, is bright and striking, with a pattern that appears to stand out from the fabric.

8 August

Still Life with Horse’s Head

Paul GAUGUIN

Still Life with Horse’s Head

1886, Oil on canvas

From upper left to lower right, Gauguin’s short, even strokes cover the entire canvas. At the time that he produced this painting, Seurat, Signac, and other young painters, a group who later were called the Neo-Impressionists, were beginning to experiment with a similar technique: brushwork that used small dots of color. What makes this still life distinctive is not only the technique but also the individual motifs that Gauguin used. Decorating the wall in the background is a Japanese fan, decorated with an ukiyo-e picture. The doll on the left is also Oriental in style. The large head of a horse in the center is a reference to a Greek sculpture from the Parthenon, on display at the British Museum in London. Greek art and craft objects from Japan are symbolically juxtaposed.

9 September

Two Pears and a Peach

Georges BRAQUE

Two Pears and a Peach

1924, Oil on panel

Stunned by seeing Les Demoiselles d’Avignon during a visit to Picasso’s studio in November, 1907, Braque worked closely with Picasso from 1908 to 1914 to develop Cubism. They discarded single-point, linear perspective, which sees the subject from one fixed point in space, and experimented with combining multiple perspectives. His project with Picasso was, however, interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. Braque resumed painting in 1917, after returning from his service in the military and, in the early 1920s, began painting a new style of still life. In works from this period, he abandons the difficult visual geometries of Cubism and experiments with a lavish, decorative use of color.

10 October

Noh Mask and Hand Drum Body

SAKAMOTO Hanjiro

Noh Mask and Hand Drum Body

1962, Oil on canvas

After he turned sixty, Sakamoto, who earlier painted horses, began to find the subjects for his paintings in commonplace things round him, including kitchen utensils and fruit. His Noh mask series dates from this same period and is known to include about thirty paintings. This example was painted near the end of that series. A female Noh mask and the body of a hand drum, sit, perfectly positioned, atop stacks of Noh scores. This painting communicates a definite sense of depth and generates both acute tension and a sense of tranquility. Sakamoto, who first saw a Noh performance in 1913 with the poet Miki Rofu, wished someday to express how much that experience moved him; the result is his Noh mask series.

11 November

Innocent Moonlit Night

KOGA Harue

Innocent Moonlit Night

1929, Oil on canvas

A moonlit night, yet the sky in the left rear of the painting is bright. An owl, a nocturnal bird, with butterflies. A table, on which are laid fruit, eggs, a wine bottle, and a vase of flowers, is, somehow, part of the building. The ground from the background to foreground on the right suggests the scene is set out of doors, yet the hidden balcony railing revealed at the left edge suggests an interior scene. Night, day, indoors, outdoors: the painting’s paradoxical elements prevent pinning down the scene being painted, making it difficult to read. Each element exists in the real world, but their disjointed juxtapositions and odd arrangements express a phantasmagorical world. Its relationship to Surrealism, then a new movement in the West, has been noted since Koga first showed this work. The work, along with paintings by Togo Seiji, Abe Kongo, and Nakagawa Kigen, attracted great interest at the Nika Exhibition.

12 December

Calla Lilies and Goldenrods

KOJIMA Zenzaburo

Calla Lilies and Goldenrods

1954, Oil on canvas

Kojima’s later work includes his Japanese landscape period, in the latter half of the 1930s, and, overlapping with it and continuing until the end of his life, his still life period, with flowers and their containers as is motif. This painting from the still life period depicts flowers in a vase; calla lilies, with their large, green leaves and large, white flowers, and, behind them, yellow goldenrod. In the background, the wallpaper, with its stylized pattern, and the tablecloth on which the vase is placed are rendered to reduce the expression of depth to a minimum, but in hues of a richness that rival the flowers and vase that are the main motifs. The result is a painting with a lavish, planar decorative quality. There may be some connection between that decorativeness and the Edo-period Rimpa school of art.