Cross- hatching

The technique of cross- hatching seen through Rembrandt, Albrecht Duerer and Gustave Dore.

Hatching and cross hatching are techniques frequently mentioned in the manual to create different values and tones in the drawings. So my tutor Joanne recommended taking a closer look at this technique based on the works of Rembrandt, Albrecht Durer and Gustave Dore, before exploring this technique when drawing still-life.

A definition by Wikipedia:

Hatching (hachure in French) is an artistic technique used to create tonal or shading effects by drawing (or painting or scribing) closely spaced parallel lines. (…) When lines are placed at an angle to one another, it is called cross-hatching. (….)


Linear hatching
Hatching in parallel lines. Normally the lines follow the direction of the described plane.[1]
Layers of hatching applied at different angles to create different textures and darker tones. At its simplest, a layer of linear hatching is laid over another layer at a 90° angle, to which further diagonal layers may be added. Other methods include layering arbitrary intersecting patches.[1] Crosshatching in which layers intersect at slight angles can create a rippled moiré effect.[2]
Contoured hatching
Hatching using curved lines to describe light and form of contours.[2]

A definition by

with some beautiful examples:

Cross-hatching is a method of line drawing that describes light and shadow. The representation of light utilizes the white or openness of the page, while shadow is created by a density of crossed lines.

If you examine the value scale below, you can see how the light end (left) uses a simple pattern of parallel lines spaced widely apart to represent light. The dark end (right) layers criss-crossing lines to create a feeling of shadow.


BUT cross-hatching is also very much an attitude about drawing and understanding what you see. The lines and marks that make up cross-hatching describe planes of form and begin by following planes of form–like cross-contour lines do.

For example, if we look at this etching of pillows by Albrecht Durer, we can see how the lines curve and move as the folds of the pillows do. The density and movement of lines give us a feel for the forms by showing light and shadow.

“Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) was a German painter, printmaker and theorist from Nuremberg. His still-famous works include the Apocalypse woodcuts, Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia I (1514), which has been the subject of extensive analysis and interpretation. His watercolours mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium.”

His works are incredibly detailed and overwhelmingly full of action.It is in his woodcuts for prints that the cross- hatching is used so masterfully. It only becomes apparent when you take a very close look at the details, like in the example of the study of pillows above.


Melencholia (1514) is one of Albrecht Duerers most famous prints, now at the MET. If enlarging the image, the folds of the cloth for example, is a good place to see the very intricate patterns of cross-hatching with many many thin lines that create the different tones and therefore the sense of depth.

DP820348 copy

Here I will take a look at Rembrandt’s etchings, where he used the cross-hatching technique:’s_etchings.htm:

Rembrandt Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669)

“Many people are surprised to learn that Rembrandt’s etchings, not his paintings, were responsible for the international reputation he enjoyed during his lifetime.

In etching, the plate is covered with a protective coat of resin. The artist then scratches his design through the resin with a needle and immerses the plate in a bath of acid, which “bites” the metal wherever the resin has been removed. The action of the acid produces lines of a slightly irregular, vibrating quality; Rembrandt did not regard this as a drawback, however, but as a challenge.”

“A copper plate lends itself fairly readily to change and correction. Lines may be removed by pounding and burnishing, and added at will; the etcher simply re-covers his plate with a fresh coat of resin and makes new scratches through it. Rembrandt sometimes took several years to finish a plate to his satisfaction, and he sold prints from the various states of his work.(…)”


“(..) a network of very fine lines that capture the play of light, shadow and air with a skill far exceeding that of Callot or of any Dutch etcher. The refinement of his technique appears to even greater advantage in a later portrait of his mother, in 1631, in which countless scurrying, hair-thin strokes are used to build up his chiaroscuro and texture.”

The etchings seem more spontaneous , less controlled and have less detail than Duerers and the crosshatching is much easier to see.


Looking at Rembrandt’s drawings- the cross-hatching is less apparent. It seems like he uses charcoal fully filling different densities to create different tones. But here i found some drawings where cross-hatching was visible:


Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

“Gustave Dore was a prolific engraver, artist, illustrator, and sculptor, working primarily as a wood and steel engraver. He produced over 100,000 sketches in his lifetime, and lived to be 50 years old, averaging 6 sketches per day for each day he lived. ” (…)

“Dore created engravings for the books of Balzac, Rabelais, Milton, Dante, Edgar Allen Poe, and Lord Byron. He was commissioned to illustrate a version of the English Bible, which was extremely popular, allowing for the foundation of his own gallery, the Dore Gallery. For his work on Dante’s Inferno, he was decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.”

Gustave Doré was a world famous 19th century illustrator. Although he illustrated over 200 books, some with more than 400 plates, he is primarily known for his illustrations to The Divine Comedy, particularly The Inferno, his illustrations to Don Quixote, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.


Illustration to Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno by Gustave Doré. Plate 1: Dante in the Dusky Woods


Dore, Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto 34 : Lucifer, King of Hell

Bible illustrations:


When looking up a little more closely than is possible here, the use of cross- hatching following the shapes of the subjects becomes clear. The etchings of Dore show less contrast and outline than the detailed action filled etchings of Albrecht Duerer. The amazing atmosphere created by the differences in light are more in the center of these works.

I am excited to continue exploring cross- hatching now, in color and with a simple natural object. It is beautiful to have seen the extent of possibility of this technique , creating tone, depth and atmosphere.



There is a very good short introduction to Cubism from Oxford art online I will post here :


Pablo Picasso: Three Musicians, oil on canvas, 2.01×2.23 m, 1921 (New York, Museum of Modern Art); © 2007 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo © Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NYHeralded as one of the most original and influential artistic movements of the 20th century, Cubism aggressively challenged Western conceptions of pictorial representation. The exact date of the inception of Cubism is debated. Some scholars cite Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907, others Georges Braque’s Houses at L’Estaque of 1908 and still others the first organized group show by Cubists in Paris in 1911 with works by Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes. The term Cubism, however, was coined in 1908 by the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles when he described some of Georges Braque’s paintings as ‘geometric schemas and cubes’. These initial works of Braque and Picasso comprise what art historians usually refer to as the first phase of Cubism, or Analytic Cubism. The early Cubist works of Picasso and Braque assaulted Renaissance ideals of perspective and illusionism by breaking up the picture surface into a series of planes, signs and shifting viewpoints. Volume was rendered in flat planes instead of using tonal modeling and three-dimensionality was indicated by showing multiple viewpoints simultaneously.

Sometime in the spring of 1912 Picasso glued a piece of oilcloth printed with a tromp l’oeil chair-caning pattern to a small canvas and named it Still-life with Chair-caning. This was the first Cubist collage and initiated the second major phase of Cubism termed Synthetic Cubism. The artists used collage to further challenge the viewer’s understanding of reality and representation. By creating an image that is a synthesis of pictorial elements, both real and painted, Picasso and Braque challenged the deceptive and artificial nature of illusionistic representation. Although the term Cubism usually refers to these developments of Analytic and Synthetic Cubism in early 20th century France pioneered by Picasso, Braque and others, the impact of Cubist ideas and pictorial forms reverberated throughout Europe and abroad. Cubism profoundly affected the Russian avant-garde, the Italian Futurists and the British Vorticists among others. The Cubist destruction of the traditional Western pictorial system left the door open for radical artistic experimentation that continues today.

These are the two works that are mentioned as the start of Cubism:

F017219.thumbnailGeorges Braque: Houses at L’Estaque, oil on canvas, 730×595 mm, 1908



F017217.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, oil on canvas,

And the first cubist collage:

F017274.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Still-Life with Chair-caning, oil and painted oilcloth on canvas, 290×370 mm, c. spring 1912

Here are some further cubist works :

F017220.thumbnailGeorges Braque: Violin and Pitcher, oil on canvas, 117o×735 mm,…

F017273.thumbnailGeorges Braque: Portuguese Man, oil on canvas, 1172×813 mm, c. 1911–2

F019965.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Still-life with a Bottle of Rum, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 19 7/8 inches (61.3 x 50.5 cm), 1911

F017221.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Woman with Guitar (‘Ma Jolie’),

F018082.thumbnailFernand Léger: The Wedding, oil on canvas, 2.57×2.06 m, 1911

460px-Jean_Metzinger,_1911-12,_La_Femme_au_Cheval_-_The_RiderJean MetzingerLa Femme au Cheval, Woman with a horse, 1911-1912,

From Wikipedia:

“Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in musicliterature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century.”

Pablo_Picasso,_1910,_Girl_with_a_Mandolin_(Fanny_Tellier),_oil_on_canvas,_100.3_x_73.6_cm,_Museum_of_Modern_Art_New_York..jpgPablo Picasso, 1910, Girl with a Mandolin

A cubist still life by Pablo Picasso, a classical table top motive seen in an entirely new way:


Georges Braque , also a classical motive of musical instruments.Musical-Instruments-Georges-Braque-1908

Cubism challenged all conventional styles and forms of  representation, such rules like perspective , which had been the rule since the Renaissance. They developed a whole new way of seeing. By not using a 3 D perspective, but by combining multiple perspectives in the same picture they created a sense of totality in a uniquely modern way.

This was at a time when technology exploded and the boundaries of what was possible in ways of communication or travel were being pushed further than could have been imagined previously.

Cubism was the answer to a need of modernising art to match this development, to expand the boundaries of art to match modern times. It was the first abstract style of modern art. They simplified objects into its natural forms, spheres, cubes… Then adding multiple perspective.

All through the research , the influence of Paul Cezanne on still life in general, and on the cubists , has become apparent, so I will research his work next. And feel very tempted to try a cubist still life 🙂


Still life in America

This is a lecture covering the development of still life painting in America from the 19 th to the 20 th century. I found it interesting as a starting point to look at the history before exploring more contemporary still life.

Fruit, Flowers and Lucky Strike- Still life in American Culture, speaker Carol Troyen

Oct 29 2015. A Yale University Gallery lecture on You Tube

For a long time still life painters got no respect. The genre was largely disdained in the 18th 19 th century, considered only for decor. It was only in the 20 th century that this changed and still life became a forum for innovation and exploration.

An illustration of this is Charles Bird King , The poor artists cupboard 1815:

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A commentary on the low standard of life resulting from the  the low opinion of still life, poor artist, a glass of water, not wine.

Henry Church in Monkey Picture 1870 makes a satire of the many fruit and flower still lives in America in the 19 th century, painting two monkeys tearing a part a typical Victorian still life setting, knocking things over.

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Raphael’s work is admired today, but in his time his work was not highly regarded. (Wikipedia: Raphaelle Peale (February 17, 1774 – March 4, 1825) is considered the first professional American painter of still-life.)

He paints very quiet paintings of simple compositions of fruits or berries placed on a tabletop before a dark background. Noble but poignant in their simplicity.

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After the Civil war (1861–65) lithographic firms started hiring artists specifically for prints. The American society became aware of the variety of artistic styles and paintings became available to everyone. These were not considered as art, but for decoration or education.

Henry Roderick Newman (1833-1918) produced one of the most popular chromolithographs of the day:

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Robert Dunning, the basket of cherries and George Cockram with lilies on a black background were also popular motives. The right painting shows the beginning interest in Japanese style and design.

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The wealthy class would still choose oil paintings, not chromolithographs, like this painting Abundance by Severin Roesen.

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There are so many flowers the glass vase can not contain them all, from all seasons, all regions, filling the picture space,  a visual assurance of abundance.

Printed advertisements were inspired by still life. Thus the language of the still life had become the language of the consumer class. New styles began to appear and the prestige and interest in still life started to increase.

John Lafarge was the first to create “painterly ” still lives, a vehicle for personal expression rather than virtuosic rendering of nature. He used many media like stained glass, watercolors . His work placed still life in a new light.


William Harnett in the 1870’s was painting money, a new subject that became widespread, as well as trompe l’oeil pictures of bric a brac. This was a time when it was fashion to collect things, bric a brac, and still life paintings were in a way catalogues of the collections.

John Haberle (1856–1933) was another painter expressing this subject. Here in Changes of time from 1888, a history of America through money, a trompe l’oeil on a battered cupboard.

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There was a growing vogue and interest in Japanese painting. Charles Coleman explored this. Here painting with black peach blossom shaped like a Japanese scroll, a blend of realism and trompe l’oeil:

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So at this time the boundaries of still life were being pushed and the genre escaped being pure decor, but what really changed American still life at the turn of the century was the work of Paul Cezanne.

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Since 1870 Paul Cezanne used still life as a tool for constant innovation and many American artists that got into contact with his work began to experiment with still life as a base to explore colors and shapes.

Also the spreading of Photography freed the still life genre from the expectation of exact and detailed rendering of nature.

Paul Strand , photographer, developed the abstract photography, the subject of still life is pure form. He transcends the traditional task of both photography and still life and created a new and modern genre.

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Alfred Stieglitz had a similar approach , doing away with gravity in this study of clouds.

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This liberation of the still life genre is visible in the work of Georgia O Keefe, most known for her paintings of flowers:

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There is no horizon and strong cropping of the flowers. She said “details are confusing”. Her flowers are spirals and curves, not botanical renderings.

This is the Machine Age in America, and the still life genre started embracing machinery as a subject matter.

Morton Livingston Schamberg (October 15, 1881 – October 13, 1918) was one of the first to embrace the interplay art/ machinery. From 1916 he created a series of paintings of made up machines on a neutral background.

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His art work “God” 1917 made from plumbing tools shows how the American culture idolized machinery. He also proved that still life can be made from anything.

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The 20 th century was a time of brash consumerism, money , advertisement and this became a new subject matter . Here Stuart Davis work with Odol mouthwash and Lucky Strike cigarettes:

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Similarly Gerald Murphy with the safety matches:


In his work “Watch” he shows a pocket watch blown up to the size of a person- this radical alteration of scale is a modernist approach, like in the works of Georgia o Keeffe .

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Charles Sheeler (July 16, 1883 – May 7, 1965) was a painter and photographer, creating duos of both of his subject matter.

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Here in Frozen moment, he explores the mechanical form as sculptural elements.

This work with a cactus is a Jazz age version of the traditional table top. The cactus itself the botanical equivalent of a modern bouquet.

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His works are near monochrome, with the cactus a color .This becomes a picture about making a modernist still life.

Paul Outerbridge, Jr. (August 15, 1896 – October 17, 1958) used photography exploring still life playing with the question- what is more real? He groups cylinders, spheres and cones in a way of mocking Cezanne.

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Another satire of the whole tradition of still life, the chromolithographs, is this recreation of  fanny Palmer motive from 1867, an immensely popular chromo at the time.

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Here he asks the questions of the avantgarde: realism versus artificial, imitation versus invention.

Still life as a genre has become essential to modernism.


This lecture was very useful for my understanding of the development of still life and has given me a lot of pointers for further research. Writing it down with the illustrations was very time consuming though as there were no captions on the images shown and I had to google all the artists names to get them right, often searching quite long as the American pronounciation of the lecturer was unusual to me and I had misspelled much. But in turn that gave me the chance to see more works by the same artists and now I know quite clearly in wich direction I want to look further.


16 th 17 th century Dutch painters

To start my research into the still life genre, I first look at a traditional approach : still life by the 16 th and 17 th century Dutch painters. I discover a Yale lecture by John Walsh on YouYube that was a perfect introduction to the subject:

“Food for thought:  Pieter Claesz and Dutch still life” by John Walsh, Yale University Art Gallery 2015

The term Still life was coined by the Dutch painters themselves, meaning a painting of objects not moving or devoid of a soul.( In Dutch still life means quiet life , not dead life as translated into French.)

In the 17 th century still life was very LOW in prestige, but very popular and widespread and sold in big quantities. Top ranking was for history paintings. But the still life flourished in the real life of making and selling art, it was accessible to many.

In the 17 th century Still life was divided into many categories:


Breakfast pieces- paintings with food

Kitchen still life

Pipe smoking pieces

Fruit pieces

Dead game and weapons

Dead fish

And a very large category: Flowers

Each category had subcategories, and each had it’s own specialists.

This was a time with a new approach to Science –  categorizing natural objects- which spilled over into still life. It was the time of collectors. The Dutch sea fleet was bringing back exotic objects from around the world that were avidly collected – this was the time of “Kunst und Wunderkammer”- Cabinets of Curiosity. Artists worked for influential people all over Europe to document and categorize their collections of natural items.

In Italy and Spain still life was a minor category of painting but with brilliant artists such as Vincenzo Campi, inspired by Caravaggio.


In Spain Juan Sanchez Cotan created “Still life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and cucumber” 1602, with a brilliant composition, hanging fruits in the picture frame, alternating light and dark with a richness of surface and color:

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The speciality of the Dutch still life was the luminous complexity. Also the compositions often show the illusion that people have already been there and touched or feasted on the objects of the paintings.

First theme : Vanitas: this life is temporary so it is foolish to be attached to it. Beauty, riches, power- all this is temporary.  This theme was explored by a wide range of artists such as Barthel Bruyn the Elder in Still life with a skull and candle :

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Pieter Claesz: stillife with skull and book 1628:

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The glass is empty and upturned, the oil lamp empty, someone was there but is gone, it is over.

Vanitas with violin and glassball 1628: here a new surprising and complex element- the glassball reflects the subject of the painting, then the whole room and the artist himself.

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Pieter Claesz painted many versions of Vanitas – then turned to a new category: Vanitas through food. Someone had been there but is gone, the food is decomposing.

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There is a lot going on in the composition, a play of ovals, many colors, textures. The plate in front that is placed precariously on the edge of the table is coming directly at the viewer and the lemons on it have a see through character and luminosity that is spectacular. The lemons were always present in food still lives of this time.

Peter Claesz did not invent the subject of exploring “Vanitas” through food, it had been explored by the German still life painters. But there all the subjects were placed in order and ready for inspection. Claesz subject is in disorder. It is not a real meal, but a masquerade with a mix of modest objects like bread and expensive collectors pieces that speak of wealth.

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Pieter Claesz was a master of complex reflections Here the pitcher and the wine glass reflect the whole room again.

A breakfast piece from 1627-28:

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A complex composition , with the white tablecloth to the right, the plate of butter precariously balancing on the breadbasket and again the silver plate in the middle balancing on the edge of the table towards the viewer.

By Clara Peeters, possibly a self- portrait with a vanitas still- life: a pocket watch indicating the passing of time, dice for wasted time, gold (wealth) and a soap bubble- all traditional subjects for the Vanitas still- life:

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The French artist Georges de la Tour explores this theme of Vanitas with portrait in Magdalene with lamp 1640. Magdalene the reformed sinner has learned her lesson, with a skull, a moving painting.

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Clara Peeters a still life with Cheeses 1615:

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Pieter Claesz Still life with a Roemer pipe 1633. It is also a breakfast piece, but still with the Vanitas theme- everything will be consumed, the coals are soon ashes.  The dice and cards are symbols of waisting time.

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Willem Claesz Heda:

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A cooler and more sharp technique. The subject is in disorder and the plates very precariously balancing on the edge of the table into our space.

Here a still life with books 1628 in a monochrome color scheme. The monochrome was a new tendency that started in seascapes and then spread to the still life genre.

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Jan Davidsz de Heem brought new and influential ideas to the genre with bold digonal compositions, energy spirals. He was influenced by Rubens ,who never painted still life. Here Still life with Lobster and Nautilus Cup 1634, a combination of beauty and instability with a light that adds a theatrical character:

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De Heem became a painter of banquets, prunk, palatial still lives with grandeur, lots of everything and full of symbols of wealth and abundance.  Here Still life with fruits, ham and lobster 1653.

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He also became the most original painter of flowers, with strong accents of color, red particularly.

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Arms and Armor:

Willem van Aelst , Hunt still life with a velvet bag on a marble ledge 1665. This is a new generation than de Heem. The bright blue is a sign of princely favour. It was made of ground lapis lazuli brought from Pakistan and extremely expensive. No signs of Vanitas here, no clock.

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A hunters bag and hanging game. No sign of a weapon at first, but a small hood with a plume- it is a falcons hood. Hunting with falcon was popular among noble men at the time. This is painted with phenomenal exactness, even the knots of the string are detailed, without loosing the variety.

Franz Snyders, Still life with a wine cooler 1610-20.Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 3.37.48 PM

This is not a found scene in the larder, but a carefully staged one with a heron and a peacock in a wide sweep of diagonals.

Rembrandt painted only one still-life: Dead peacocks 1639:

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There is a lot of drama here, amped up by the light , by the way the blood flows towards us as well as the heads of the dead birds , pointing towards us and doubled by their shades.

Frans Snyder crossed games pieces with pieces with fruits and flowers He painted epic life size dramas with dogs and servants. Here Still life with a swan 1640:Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 3.41.31 PM

JB Weenix , Still life with a dead swan 1651:


The swan is upside down in a diagonal, a graceful pose, a choreographed scene. The feathers explode in the light, expertly painted.

Willem Kalf specialized in a particular mix of peasant scenes with still life. Here  Kitchen interior 1640-45:

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This is freely painted with a new technique of crumbly paint that was picked up by many of his contemporaries .

Willem Kalf goes beyond any other painter in the way he renders the metal vessels. Here Still life with a metal flacon 1655-57.

Amazing refections: the color of the lemons reflect in the metal. It is truthful and magical at the same time.

And lastly Willem de Kalf, Still life with a Chinese Bowl and Nautilus cup 1662:

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This still life is a trade show of objects of great wealth from China, Persia, the  Mediterannean, also showing a mix of Deities from different cultures. Here we see the power and wealth of the Dutch sea fare.

The theme of flowers is a huge subject for the still life genre of the time, but was not described here as it is the subject of a whole separate lecture.


I learned a lot watching this lecture. It gives a good overview of the Dutch traditional still life genre in the 16 th 17 th century. Although this is not the style of art I would like to make, I am in absolute awe and deep respect of the skills of these painters.

I also learned a lot about composition- use of ovals, diagonals, alternating light and dark subjects. Some new ideas, like hanging the fruit.

Also to make the compositions more dynamic, spilling , overturning, balancing objects. Using the space going towards the viewer . I like that the compositions have signs that someone has been there and eaten or written or touched the things, making the still life live outside the picture frame.