Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin: Food and Kitchen Paintings

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Chardin, Partridge

Today I want to share with you my enthusiasm about Chardin’s paintings.

Marcel Proust wrote about Chardin:

“We have learned from Chardin that a pear is as living as a woman, that an ordinary piece of pottery is as beautiful as a precious stone. The painter had proclaimed the divine equality of all the things before the mind that contemplates them, before the light that beautifies them.”

Proust also wrote of the artist, “Everyday life will charm you once you have absorbed Chardin’s painting for a few days like a lesson. Then, having understood the life of his painting, you will have discovered the beauty of life.”

Self Portrait
Self Portrait

A Short Biography

November 2, 1699 – December 6, 1779

A renowned French artist of the 18th Century, Chardin was well known for his still-life works and genre paintings. His refined and realistic style had a lasting influence on some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries, including Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) and Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906). His depictions were of simple subjects, but masterful in their execution, ….

His training was under French history painters, Pierre Jacques Cazes and Noël-Nicolas Coypel (1690 – 1734), though he trained mostly from his own studies. According to the Getty Museum Biography on Chardin the painter got his start executing signposts for tradesmen and detailing the works of other artists. He was documented in 1724 as a member of the Academy of Saint Luc in Paris, but was discovered by Nicolas de Largillière (1656 – 1746), a portrait painter. Largillière recommended Chardin’s entry into the Royal Academy of Painting (Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture) in 1728.

The works that garnered his acceptance into the Academy were, La Raie (The Ray) and, The Buffet, displaying his realistic representations and established his nickname as the “painter of animals and fruit.” From here Chardin developed his skill of still-life further and grew a love of painting genre works. The painter’s reputation escalated him into gainful patronage, including a pension from King Louis XV (1710 – 1774). His works continually evolved from simple still-life painting into highly detailed representations of everyday life in French society.

After 1770, Chardin began to lose his eyesight, but still progressed as an artist with his adoption of pastel painting. The artist once said of painting, “We use colors, but we paint with our feelings,” and for him still-life subjects had a life of their own. …

Source: Uffizzi Gallery

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York USA

In celebration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of the 18th-century French artist Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699–1779), The Metropolitan Museum of Art presented a major loan exhibition of sixty-six works that survey the artist’s distinguished career as a still life and genre painter. On view from June 27, 2000 through September 3, 2000, “Chardin” was the first exhibition in New York devoted to the artist and the first in the United States in more than twenty years.

In contrast to the rococo extravagance of the paintings of his contemporaries, Chardin achieved extraordinary success as a painter of still lifes and interior scenes—then regarded as the least important of artistic genres. His work is characterized by quiet simplicity and pictorial harmony. The critic Denis Diderot wrote in 1763 that a still life by Chardin “is nature itself; the objects free themselves from the canvas and are deceptively true to life.” Chardin has continued to be greatly admired, inspiring many 19th-century artists, including Manet and Cézanne.

Philippe de Montebello, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commented on the exhibition: “During his lifetime, Chardin was recognized as one of the great painters of his day and, rightfully, appreciation for his work has never waned. The Metropolitan is delighted to present the paintings of this exceptional artist to our visitors, who may not be aware of the magnitude of his accomplishments. Through Chardin’s eyes, seemingly banal objects and scenes—a copper pot, a washerwoman, a mother admonishing a child, a basket of wild strawberries—are infused with an uncommon degree of emotional intensity in compositions of exquisite balance and beauty. Rejecting the styles and subjects of his contemporaries, such as Boucher and Fragonard, Chardin elevated the still life to a noble art form and achieved a place for himself as a quiet revolutionary in the pantheon of art history.”

The Skate
The Skate

Jean-Baptiste Siméon CHARDIN
The Skate c. 1725-1726

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier – M. Bard

This early masterpiece by Chardin was immediately judged worthy of the finest Flemish examples (Snyders, Flyt). In The Skate, “this strange monster”, Proust admired “the beauty of its vast and delicate structure, tinted with red blood, blue nerves and white muscles, like the nave of a polychromatic cathedral”.

Placed in contrast to the cauldron and pitcher — inert accessories at the right — to the left appears the tense and strange figure of a kitten, fur raised, seemingly frightened by a scene taking place outside of the painting. The skinned skate, evocative of Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox, with the odd assortment of objects arranged around it, was a source of astonishment to all painters — even as far as Matisse — for the riveting power of the animal’s vacant and ghostly gaze. The realism of the different elements of this false still life has forever served as a model to artists.

Musee du Louvre 

Still Life with Cat and Fish
Still Life with Cat and Fish

CHARDIN, Jean Baptiste Simeon

Still-Life With Cat and Fish. (Le Larron en Bonne Fortune), 1728
Oil on canvas
79,5 x 63 cm

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Still Life with Cat and Rayfish
Still Life with Cat and Rayfish

CHARDIN, Jean Baptiste Simeon
Still-Life With Cat and Rayfish, c. 1728
Oil on canvas
79,5 x 63 cm

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Chardin is represented in the museum by three exceptional still lifes: the present pair, dated 1728, and a still life with a jug and copper cauldron from a few years later. Chardin’s work falls within a naturalising trend which co-existed with the Rococo in eighteenth-century France. The key element in his canvases is the object, which varies and changes its role within the painting according to its relationship with the other elements painted in it. It has been said that Chardin is the painter of the bourgeoisie, who appear in his paintings of the 1730s surrounded by everyday objects which form part of their surroundings. Chardin’s still lifes depict the painter’s favourite objects which were part of his own intimate daily life and which he frequently reused in his paintings. Very few preparatory drawings by Chardin are known, which is consistent with what we know of his distinctive working method. Mariette, in his book Abecedario pittorico of 1749 (published 1853), commented that the artist always had to have the model in front of him from the first sketch to the last brushstroke. From Mariette we also know that Chardin sold his paintings for higher prices than those realised by other artists working in more prestigious genres such as figure painting.

This pair of canvases, formerly in the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, was purchased in 1986. Both canvases show the influence of Dutch painting which is evident in Chardin’s earliest works, in which he adapted northern subjects and formats to his own taste. The Still Life with Cat and Fish is signed and dated 1728. The date, which is difficult to read, was recorded in the literature prior to 1979 as 1758. This was rectified by Rosenberg and Carrit at the time of the 1979 Chardin exhibition when the dating was revised to 1728, which is more in line with the style of this pair of oils. On 25 September of that year Chardin was admitted to the Académie as a painter of fruits and animals.

It is during this period -from which date two of his masterpieces,The Rayfish of around 1725, and The Buffet of 1728- that one can most easily detect the influence of Dutch still life painting. At this point Chardin also started to include the presence of animals into his world of silent inanimate objects, disturbing the tranquility of the composition by their movements. The present two canvases, which are based on simple compositional arrangements (a stone kitchen surface on which are arranged the animals, the mortar, the oysters, salmon, vegetables and crockery), form a contrasting horizontal with the fish hanging from the hooks. The rich colouring, applied with generous quantities of pigment and with delicate brushstrokes all over the picture surface, create a realistic image filled with visual integrity. The range of whites which Chardin uses here for the fish scales and the fur of the animals would be admired by artists of the next generation such as Descamps. There are two variants of these canvases in the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Burrell Collection, Glasgow.

Mar Borobia

The Buffet
The Buffet

The Buffet
1728
Oil on canvas, 194 x 129 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Still life with jar of olives
Still life with jar of olives

Still-Life with a Bottle of Olives
1760
Oil on canvas, 71 x 98 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

At the salon of 1763, the philosopher Denis Diderot rhapsodised over Chardin’s picture of “an old Chinese porcelain vessel, two biscuits, a jar full of olives, a bowl of fruit, two glasses half-filled with wine, a Seville orange and a pie”. It was the honesty that Diderot loved: “For this porcelain bowl is made of real porcelain; these olives really do look as if they are floating in water; these biscuits are just waiting to be picked up and eaten; this Seville orange to be split open and squeezed; this glass of wine to be drunk; this fruit to be peeled; this pie to be cut into.”

Bee Wilson, New Statesman, 3rd April 2000

The Kitchen Table
The Kitchen Table

The Kitchen Table (1755?)

Oil on canvas
39.7 x 47.6 cm (15 5/8 x 18 3/4 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This still life of humble kitchen wares, and another depicting elegant serving utensils, were exhibited as a pair at the Salon of 1757. Close examination reveals that Chardin changed the position of many objects as he painted, evidence of his painstaking craftsmanship and determination to create harmonious balance in what appear to be casual groupings. The reworking of the mortar and pestle at the right is most apparent to the naked eye.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Still Life with Utensils
Still Life with Utensils

Still Life with Cooking Utensils, c. 1728-30

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin
French, 1699-1779
Oil on canvas (one of a pair)
15-3/4 x 12-3/8 in. (40.0 x 31.4 cm)

The Norton Simon Foundation

This painting is “provisions de cuisine,” displaying food and kitchen utensils for a simple meal. Though these items appear casually arranged, the utensils are the creation of a painter’s world of carefully calculated visual relationships. In “Still Life with Cooking Utensils,” the visual weight of the white cloth spilling over the ledge matches the similar disposition of the green onions. The handle of the water jug counters the emphatic circular sweep of the kettle, whose hollowness adds depth to the arrangement. Chardin’s still lifes are not experiments in trompe l’oeil, as one look at his surfaces will tell, but rather simultaneous confrontations between object and paint.

Chardin-Dead-Bird-large

Still-Life with Dead Pheasant and Hunting Bag
1760
Oil on canvas, 72 x 58 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

 

Source: Food in the Arts Refound 

 

Basket of Wild Strawberries
Basket of Wild Strawberries

Basket of Wild Strawberries, 1761
Jean-Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779)
Oil on canvas; 15 x 18 1/8 in. (38 x 46 cm)
Signed (lower left): chardin
Private collection



10 COMMENTS

  1. καλησπέρα,καλησπέρα
    αμάν,αμάν τι έχω να μελετήσω!!πανελλήνιες ή μάλλον ιντερνάσιοναλ έχουμε κύριε καθηγητά?για να μην αγχωθώ λέω να αρχίσω από τις αγριοφραουλίτσες και μετά και μετά… φάτε μάτια ψάρια.Τέτοιες αναρτήσεις βλέπω και σκέφτομαι τι περίσσευμα, μεγαλοψυχίας να το πω, καλοσύνης να το πω,έχουν μερικοί άνθρωποι για να μοιράζουν έτσι απλόχερα τις πολύτιμες γνώσεις τους!!!
    ευχαριστώ πολύ,πολύ

    • θα με εξοντωσεις Ρουλα μου με αυτα τα περι καθηγητου, κανε λιγο κρατει μπας και αντεξω! σε συγχαιρω για την επιλογη σου, δεν μπηκε τυχαια στο τελος αυτο το αριστουργημα νεκρης φυσης!

  2. Ποτε το σκαρωσες παλι αυτο; Πολυ ωραια παρουσιαση αλλα και οι αναφορες ενδιαφερουσες. Το πουλι με τον κυνηγητικο σακκο μου αρεσε. Παντως παρ’ολο που θεωρειται νεκρη φυση, εχει κινηση, κυριως τα υφασματα και τα ζωακια που παντου τα περιλαμβανει.
    Καλημερα αγαπητωτατε, θαθελα να μας φερετε και μερικα δικα σας αν φυσικα θελετε κι εσεις!

    • δεσποιναριον της πρωτευσουσας, ατελειωτο το ποταμι της καλλιτεχνικης δημιουργιας!

    • καλλιτεχνιδα του βορρα της ελληνικης γης, η ευαισθησια σου σε οδηγησε στο αριστουργημα του καλλιτεχνη! σα να ειχες μια νοηρη σιωπηρη επικοινωνια!

  3. σκηνες καθημερινες εντονα απεικονισμενες. Το πορτραιτο καταπληκτικο. Αλλο θεμα…ορμωμενη απο την επιθυμια του Δεσποιναριου…Ζωγραφιζετε??? τοτε….

    • Ορφια αγπαητωτατη, σκοπιμως δεν απαντησα στο σχετικο σημειο του σχολιου του δεσποιναριον, για να απαντησω εδω, σε εσενα… ναι, ζωγραφιζω, και εχω αναρτησει και μερικα εργα μου στο παρελθον… απο νεκρες φυσεις εχω λιγα εργα, θα τα ηλεκτρονικοποιησω και θα τα δειτε, λιαν συντομως!

  4. A propos, en matière de membre de l’Académie, ll parait que le célèbre libraire Gégé Collard, qui a fondé la librairie Griffe Noire, postule pour être à l’Académie .. Je trouve que cela offrirait un second élan à l’institution, foi de Saint Maurien. Qu’en pensez-vous ?

    • Dear Andrea,
      Welcome to EVOCHIA! I am not familiar with what you are describing regarding Saint Maurien. Could you possibly elaborate on it?
      PS. Apologies for not responding to you in French, but my French language skills are not good enough for allowing me to write.

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