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KALF, Willem/ ARTISTS 1650-1899/ ART MAIN

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Dutch painter (b. 1622, Rotterdam, d. 1693, Amsterdam) film and food   
Dutch painter, one of the most celebrated of all sill-life painters. In 1642-46 he worked in Paris. On his return to the Netherlands he lived in Hoorn and then in 1653 settled in Amsterdam. His early works were modest kitchen and courtyard scenes, but he soon became the outstanding exponent of a type of still-life in which fruit and precious objects – porcelain, oriental rugs, Venetian glass – are arranged in grand Baroque displays. His pictures have often been compared with those of Vermeer because of his masterly handling of texture and his ability to manipulate warm and cool colours (he frequently contrasts the reddish browns in a carpet with the yellow of a peeled lemon and the blue and white of porcelain).

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Niederl√§ndische Malerei des 17…. –

La tulipomania : l’histoire d’une fleur… –

Willem Kalf: 1619-1693 –

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Still-Life with Lemon, Oranges and Glass of Wine
Oil on canvas, 36,5 x 30,8 cm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe
The middle axis of this painting is formed by a roemer wine glass with an elaborate handle. Placed in front of a dark niche, it is partly lit by the small amount of light that shines on it. The light is also refracted by the transparent glass and the wine itself. On the marble table there are three bergamot or Seville oranges and a lemon. Jutting out over the table’s edge, a knife with a polished agate handle protrudes through the bright yellow lemon peel, and the porous strip of skin, peeled off in one piece, curls around like a festoon, forming a decorative counterpart to the narrow pointed orange leaves. Showing sweet and sour citrus fruits together in this way, the artist symbolically admonishes the viewer to be temperate and to add lemon and orange juice to wine, as they were considered to have medicinal, humoral and pathological properties. 
Still-Life with a Late Ming Ginger Jar
Oil on canvas, 77 x 65,5 cm
Museum of Art, Indianapolis
Still-life painting occasionally registers the pride that contemporaries took in global trade and colonial endeavour. Like the botanical gardens and finest collections, still-lifes gathered disparate objects from all reaches of Dutch trade, and brought them home, re-presenting them in European terms of science and collecting, without specific concern about their origin. In this painting of fine household items, Willem Kalf effortlessly combined Venetian and Dutch glassware, a recently made Chinese jar for luxury ginger, a Dutch silver dish, a Mediterranean peach, and a half-peeled lemon, the object of citrus trade and of medicinal treatises. He displayed them on an Indian floral carpet, in a dramatic spotlight that invites contemplation and admiration, for the fine wares as well as the artist’s recrafting of them. Kalf’s jewel technique evokes their value and unifies them in an arrangement, that, however lifelike for each individual object, is clearly pictorial.  

 Still-Life with a Late Ming Ginger Jar



Oil on canvas, 105 x 87,5 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
This is a typical illustration of the type of still-life of which Kalf was an outstanding specialist. The still-lifes by Kalf look very different from those of his predecessors (like Pieter Claesz. and Willem Heda). They are, in a sense, much more theatrical; in their sonorous quality they bring to mind the landscapes of his contemporary, Jacob van Ruisdael.

In the paintings by Head or Pieter Claesz., the objects are ordered in a simple way; they are just laid out on the table. The light is even; shadows are used only to emphasize each object’s plastic form. The still-life is generally set in a rather wide space (the painting itself being oblong). In Kalf’s paintings, however, the space is narrowed. The backgrounds is much darker; and in this narrow space, against this background, the still-life seems curiously isolated. A soft light picks out each different object, showing its unique quality and colour, as spotlights focus on actors on a dark stage. In the narrow space, the arrangement too is much tighter.

For this rich, glowing kind of still-life the 17th century used an apt term, "pronkstilleven" (still-life of ostentation); and part of the content of this term is certainly the choice of objects itself. In Heda and Claesz. food and utensils appear that belong to normal life: bread, beer, fish, plates and jugs of pewter or ordinary glass. Kalf (and his contemporary Abraham van Beyeren too) uses almost exclusively objects that are extraordinary: vessels of silver and gold, chalices of china, lobster, tropical fruit, displayed against rich Persian cloth.