Kitchen Still Life
by JEAN BAPTISTE SIMEON CHARDIN (French School)
IT has been said that the house of art is preponderantly adorned by the great
masters, to the disadvantage of the humbler masters who are reserved for the
kitchen. Of Chard in it might be said that he entered the house by the back
door, remained for a long time with the domestics, and then moved to the front
compartments to occupy a place among the elect.
He was little esteemed in
his licentious age, but of recent years the vogue in still life created by Cezanne,
has revived his art and attached to it the values of belated discovery.
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man who lived happily among the bourgeoisie of Paris, he painted kitchen
utensils and domestic occurrences which he transfigured into poetry. He was
trained in the Dutch tradition, but in his impressionist method and his scrup
ulous search for style he was essentially French.
He loved his subjects-his
fruits and game, his friends and servants-not in the Dutch fashion as good
things to possess, but in the French as good things to paint.
He spent hours and
days arranging his subjects, and in his later years devoted himself exclusively
to still life, building up little units of solid form in special atmospheric con
Chardin’s technique, in contrast to that of his Dutch forebears, is strikingly
modern. In his Kitchen Still Life, for example, there are no metallic surfaces,
no glittering lights, no hard edges. “His painting is singular,” remarked a
friend. “He places his colors one against the other, rarely mixing them. Look
closely, and everything is blurred and flattened out; go farther away, and it
all comes together again.
All the objects are unified, and from this there re
sults a transparency of color which vivifies everything his brush touches.”
Chard in simplified what he saw, and composed, without distortions, pictures
of more substance than the impressionists of the most advanced, or granulated,
style. HIS mind was pretty literal:
he could not imagine anythmg that lay be
yond the field of vision-he was so absorbed in his pots and pans that he re
fused to look out of the window.
But he brought, in his own clean kitchen,
magical effects from plain things; and his little masterpieces touch the emo
tions with the appeal of minor poetry.