food in the arts

HEEM, Jan Davidsz. de/ ARTISTS 1650-1899/ ART MAIN


(b. 1606, Utrecht, d. 1684, Antwerpen)

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Dutch still-life painter. He was born at Utrecht and his rare early pictures are in the style of Balthasar van der Ast, who taught him there. Later he worked in Leiden and showed that he had studied the restrained and simple works of the Haarlem still-life artists Claesz. and Heda. In 1636 he moved to Antwerp, became a citizen of that city in 1637, and spent most of his very productive life there. The paintings he did in Flanders are the ones for which he is most renowned and are very different in spirit from his earlier works: splendid flower pieces and large compositions of exquisitely laid tables which breathe all the opulent exuberance of Flemish Baroque painting. His work formed a link between the Dutch and Flemish still-life traditions and he is claimed by both schools. He came from a large family of painters and his many followers in Flanders and Holland included his son Cornelis (1631-95).

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Heem - Still-life

De Heem’s still-life paintings initially followed the style of the Haarlem school, but later drew closer to the more lavish Flemish style of large-scale still-lifes. Nevertheless, certain Dutch elements cannot be overlooked. In this painting, they are particularly evident at the points where a "dialectical principle" determines the compositional structure.

A mass of fruit and flowers ranging from ripe chestnuts to blackberries, from columbine to roses, has been arranged on a stone slab. A wide variety of surfaces, each with a different effect in light, with pure or iridescent colours, is spread out before us. Yet snails are already crawling across the vine leaves, the foliage is discoloured and withering and, the ears of grain are curling, the peach has burst its skin, the citrus fruit is half peeled, the white carnation is dried and drooping over the table edge.

At the very point where the image bears an iconographic message of the transience of worldly life in the form of nature’s riches, we see these things in their last bloom of beauty. Just as a ruin could represent the picturesque appeal of architecture, so too can a vine leaf riddled with snails seem picturesque in the full and final flowering of its beauty.

Le Livre des peintres : Vies des plus… –

Jan Davidsz de Heem und sein Kreis –

artists before 1650 bookshop (UK)

Jan Davidsz de Heem en zijn kring –