|By definition, still life is the representation of inanimate objects such as flowers or fruit in painting or photography. In the 19th century, American artists such as James Peale practiced the painting of still life as a science, creating precise and poetic canvases. As the turn of the century approached the impressionistic style found favor with the American public, and as the 20th century progressed still life painting continued to be reshaped by the modernist movement. This exhibition walks you through a history of American still life from the middle of the 19th century through the later 20th century. Beginning with two beautifully executed Studies of Grapes, 1848 in oil by Helen Searle and ending with Three Plants, 1986 by Sally Michel.|
One of the highlights of this exhibit is a Thomas Hart Benton still life of a book and flowers. This is one of a series of early still-life paintings that Benton made in New York City between June of 1912 and about 1914. According to Matthew Baigell "it probably reflects a brief period of attraction to Cézanne. After arriving in New York, he was befriended by Samuel Halpert, also recently returned from Europe, who introduced Benton once again to the intricacies of Cézanne’s flattened planes and color areas." Other artists of this period included in this exhibition are John Steuart Curry, Molly Luce, Alexander Brook, Marsden Hartley, Frank Kirk, and Abraham Walkowitz.
It also seems necessary to any still life exhibit looking at American artists of the 19th century to feature at least one Trompe L’oeil still life. By the 1870s and 80s Trompe L’oeil already began to loose its popularity in Europe as Impressionism became fashionable, however, its popularity here in the United States was not affected. Paintings by John Frederick Peto and Victor Dubreuil are positioned in this exhibit against the impressionist works of Gertrude Beals Bourne, Laura Coombs Hills, and Ross Sterling Turner.