Museum Announces Fall Exhibit
This fall the North Carolina Museum of Art presents a stunning 400-year survey of more than 70 still-life paintings and decorative arts in "Visual Feast: Masterpieces of Still Life from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston."
The only U.S. venue for the exhibition, the NCMA will showcase memorable works by European and American masters like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, and Georgia O'Keeffe, together with fanciful decorative arts that draw inspiration from the natural world.
Still-life painting as an art form developed in late 16th century Europe. Artists dispensed with the need to tell stories in order to concentrate on closely observed compositions of everyday objects such as bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, or a shelf of bottles. Some painted expressively, each stroke of paint boldly evident, while others employed trompe l'oeil ("trick the eye"), an uncanny, almost photographic illusionism.
"What all still-life painters have in common is the need to pay close, personal attention to the stuff of this world," says John W. Coffey, deputy director for art and curator of American and modern art at the NCMA. "What's painted is less important than how it is painted. These artists are primarily concerned with achieving a harmony of shape, color and overall design."
Placing particular emphasis on the visitor perspective, "Visual Feast" is arranged conversationally rather than chronologically, encouraging dialogues between works of different periods and styles.
A traditional painting of an elegant arrangement of fruit, porcelain and glass goblet from the Dutch Golden Age contrasts with the fractured planes and perspectives of a cubist table composition.
Lush impressionist images of flowers and fruits invite comparison to later still lifes, such as American John Peto's homespun depiction of a student's desk or British artist Sam Taylor-Wood's poignant video of a slowly decaying plate of fruit.
Throughout the exhibition, cases display an eclectic assortment of decorative arts serving as counterpoint to the pictures. Sevres porcelain wares, painted with floral sprays, pair with contemporaneous English porcelains in the shapes of fruits and vegetables. A flower-bedecked silver pitcher by Tiffany is matched with other American silver decorated with motifs from nature.
Exhibiting joyous porcelain vegetables and painted "tablescapes," some galleries also feature the somber opulence of 17th century vanitas paintings, which often juxtapose everyday objects with symbols of mortality, such as a skull or burnt candle, intending to remind viewers of the transience of life and beauty.
"We are thrilled to bring to North Carolina an exhibition with works by some of the greatest artists of all time - Manet, Courbet, Braque and more," says director Lawrence J. Wheeler. "The works in 'Visual Feast' showcase an array of mediums, color palettes, themes and techniques as diverse as the artists who created them."
The museum is located on Blue Ridge Road, in Raleigh.
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