Exhibition | Significant Objects: The Spell of Still Life

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on August 7, 2012

From the Norton Simon:

Significant Objects: The Spell of Still Life
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 20 July 2012 — 21 January 2013

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Dog and Game, 1730 (Norton Simon Museum)

The classical definition of a still life—a work of art depicting inanimate, typically commonplace objects that are either natural (food, flowers or game) or man-made (glasses, books, vases and other collectibles)—conveys little about the rich associations inherent to this genre. In the academic tradition of Western art, still life occupied the lowest position in the hierarchy of the arts, which recognized history painting, portraiture and landscape painting as superior. It was disparaged critically and theoretically as mere copying that lacked artistic imagination and placed no intellectual demands on the viewer. Significant Objects: The Spell of Still Life posits that nothing could be further from the truth for this category of art, which hovers between mimesis and symbolism, and in which artistic skill and fantasy are tantamount to its success. Drawing on the spectacular resources of the Norton Simon collections, the exhibition explores the wealth of aesthetic and conceptual artistic strategies that challenge the shortsighted view of still life as simply an art of imitation. It also underscores why the still life continues to be an important vehicle of expression.

Significant Objects examines the genre from four perspectives designed to tease out the import of the still life, to identify the rich associational value of time, place or circumstance, and to encourage meaningful encounters with the objects.

The first section, Depiction & Desire, looks at the still life as a barometer of wonder and of the impulse to collect and display. Exacting portrayals of individual flowers or cubist abstractions that seize on the sensual elements of color, texture and weight are illustrative of the passion to capture, document and celebrate material pleasures and possessions through the counterfeit of the visual image. Virtuosity considers the exercise of skill and the mastery of technique as a means to create illusion and objects of imaginative, complex beauty. Still lifes rendered in oil, pastel, wood and various printing processes invite scrutiny as to how artists make the difficult look easy and where the boundaries lie between technical expertise and artistry. Decoding the Still Life approaches these arrangements as coded with meaning and allegory. From the popular and moralizing symbols embedded in 17th-century fruit and flower paintings to the political and personal meanings insinuated by 19th- and 20th-century artists, these implied secrets bring a mysterious resonance to the compositions and underscore their capacity to communicate intellectual insights. Finally, Still Life off the Table takes a liberal view of the genre, looking at radical variations that can be considered still-life related. Abstractions, assemblage and the deconstruction of the tabletop arrangement show how the genre stretches beyond the conventions of its historically conservative nature and yet is malleable enough to remain a vital instrument for provocative, contemporary innovations.

Still life occupies a special place in the Norton Simon Museum, with singular examples in a variety of media, including paintings, prints and photographs. Mr. Simon acquired his first still life in 1955. From that moment on, the genre maintained his attention much as any other he pursued, if it met his criteria for quality, rarity and beauty. Though cautious about revealing his favorite objects in the collection, Simon admitted a deep fondness for Paul Cézanne’s Tulips in a Vase, 1888–90, which is presented in the exhibition. Also included are stellar examples by the genre’s greatest practitioners: Jan Brueghel, Rembrandt and Francisco de Zurbarán, from the 17th century; Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Gustave Courbet, Henri Fantin-Latour and Vincent van Gogh, from the 18th and 19th centuries; and Pablo Picasso, Richard Diebenkorn, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston and George Herms, from the 20th century.

Internship | NPG in London

Posted in opportunities by Editor on August 7, 2012

As noted at BARS:

Internship at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Applications due by 12 August 2012

The National Portrait Gallery is seeking to appoint an intern for six months with a proven interest in portraiture to gain experience in general curatorial work and research across a number of projects. The main focus of the internship will be on the 18th-Century Collections but an interest in the portraiture of other periods is desirable. Tasks may include answering public enquiries, scoping out ideas for the annual redisplay of Regency miniatures, research towards a forthcoming display on World War Two and the RAF at Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire and research support towards an academic study of portrait print collecting and extra-illustration in eighteenth-century Britain. As a large part of the internship will involve research in libraries and archives in London, it would be an advantage to have completed an MA or be engaged in a programme of PhD study. The intern will be supervised by the 18th Century Curator and Assistant Curator, 18th Century.

Hours: 1 day (8 hours) per week for six months to be agreed with the curator

Travel Expenses: Travel costs of up to ten pounds (£10) per week can be claimed

Ideally we would like candidates to be available for a 6-month period.

Qualifications and Experience
• Good general knowledge of British art history and/or history
• A proven interest in the eighteenth century and a reasonable understanding of portraiture as a genre
• The internship would ideally suit those candidates who have completed an Art History or History MA or are engaged in a programme of PhD study who have an interest in pursuing museum work

Skills and Attributes
• Ideal candidates will need to have a flexible approach and be prepared to contribute to a number of different projects
• Candidates will also need to be able to demonstrate a careful approach and attention to detail
• Excellent written English is an essential requirement

Please send your CV and a covering letter either by e-mailing: curatorialoffice@npg.org.uk or by writing to: Emily Burns, Curatorial Office, National Portrait Gallery, 2 St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE. Closing date for returned applications: 9.00am Monday, 13 August 2012. Interviews will take place in the week beginning 20 August 2012.

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