Friday 5 April 2013

So Juicing might just be a trend but Fruit and Vegetables have been an obsession through the ages

My mother and I are joining the crowd and starting a Simple Green Smoothie 30 day challenge and today we went out to buy all of the delicious ingredients for a week of lovely fresh smoothies. This made me think of the way that artists through the ages have been obsessed with painting fruit and vegetables.

So this is really a double edged post. A couple of images of my first experiment with juicing and then a couple of the paintings that it reminded me of.

One lovely healthy shopping trolley

My very own still life......

and one from a far superior artist.

William Henry Hunt Basket with Melon, Peaches, Grapes and Plum c1840, The Courtauld Gallery (hmm just add some spinach and you could make your very own Still Life smoothie)

First in goes the vegetables with the water as these are the hardest to break up and need to be blended seperatly to avoid getting big chunks of vegetable in your drink. This was the bit that felt the weirdest blending up all the veg that might usually go with some meat or a fillet of fish!

Then came the time to measure out all of the fruits. Although in future I would take these out of the freezer to thaw a little first. Otherwise the smoothie is just too cold and you miss out on some of the flavour.

One Anthropologie measuring cup full of juicy frozen berries.

Pour it in and blend.

And Voila! Two glasses of delicious home made smoothie and plenty for later.

Along the way new paintings kept popping into my mind. When you see all these lovely fresh ingredients together it is not hard to understand why so many artists and sculptors alike have fixated upon them. They are readily available, you can create interesting compositions with the myriad of shapes, there are so many vibrant colours and of course most fruits have a symbolic association.

The first painting to come to mind was this work by Joachim Beuckelaer:

Joachim Beuckelaer The Four Elements: Earth 1569 National Gallery

It is one of four paintings in the National Gallery which includes Earth, Water, Fire and Air. It shows the abundance of sustenance that the earth has to offer all heaped together. Falling somewhere between a still life and a scene of rural life. The fruit and Vegetables are carefully observed but the painting still retains a sense of the hustle and bustle of market life with the shapely women in the background presumably getting ready to sell their wares at market.

Cezanne Apples, Bottle and a Chairback circa 1904-06 Courtauld Gallery

 This watercolour by Cezanne does not include quite the variety of fruit as the previous work but it certainly warranted inclusion. Cezanne often painted apples and once said "I will astonish Paris with an Apple". They were one of the subjects through which he explored his new way of painting using planes and ignoring classical form and perspective. He used to spend so long looking at and painting the fruits that they would rot.

Speaking of rotting fruit....

 Sam Taylor-Wood Still Life 2001

This video work by Sam Taylor-Wood  entitled Still Life from 2001 shows a very classical arrangement of fruit harking back to 16th and 17th century still lives popular in Flanders and the Netherlands. However we are shown the fruit decaying over time while a cheap plastic ball-point pen in the foreground endures.

So from now on I am going to look to art for some recipe inspiration (although maybe not Sam Taylor-Wood's work)

Wednesday 3 April 2013

The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein

I took advantage of one of the few and far between sunny days of 2013 to take a trip to The Queens Gallery to see The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein exhibition. 

Before popping in to the show I decided to soak up some of the sunshine outside Buckingham palace and boost my Vitamin D levels.

It looked marvelous with the sun reflecting off the magnificent building and the hustle and bustle of tourists taking in the stunning sight. Queenie was even in so the Royal Standard was flying proud.

The show itself was sublime. The Queen's Gallery if you haven't visited before is a really wonderful exhibition space which is only appropriate as the Royal collection is one of the biggest and best royal collections around. 

Look at that sunshine!

This exhibition focused on the work of Northern European artists in the collection. A branch of art history all too often overlooked and undervalued in favor of the perspectival genius of the Italian Renaissance.

The portraiture component is particularly strong and the walls throughout the exhibition are lined with the faces of some of the most prominent royals, politicians, intellectuals and nobles of the day. The care and attention put into these portraits in self-evident. I was particularly struck by the various artists efforts to create a true likeness of the sitter. The portrait by Hans Memling hanging in the second room is a prime example of this. The careful modelling of the flesh on the face and the inclusion of the fine v shaped lines on the mans necks leaves you in no doubt that you are looking at a face of a man that once walked and talked on this earth. 

The inclusion of various masterful drawings by Holbein and the French artist Jean Clouet and his workshop strengthens the sense that these northern artists were truly observing their subjects during the painting process. Some of the drawings are even shown alongside their accompanying painting and it is interesting to see the alterations that were carried out along the way.

This drawing of Sir Thomas Elyot by Holbein includes what can only be described as an early manifestation of designer stubble!

 Image from Wikipedia
The exhibition is appropriately titled after the two artists Durer and Holbein who contribute the greatest number of works to it's walls. However the important word 'from' in the title should not be missed. This is not an exhibition that simply presents these two artists as the main protagonists of Northern Renaissance art. Oh no it includes and celebrates the work of the undeniably brilliant Hugo Van der Goes, Hans Memling, Quinten Massys, Jan Gossaert, the two Clouets and Lucas Cranach.

It has taken me soo long to publish this that the exhibition is now in it's last week so seize the moment and Click Here to book.