Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hierarchy of Paint

For several centuries, paintings were ranked according to subject matter. History paintings were at the top, followed by portraiture, genre, landscape and lastly still life. "History" subjects included Greek and Roman mythology and Biblical themes as well as history that might be found in a standard textbook.
Rembrandt who lusted after both fame and social acceptance often painted "history" even though his forte was character study and portraiture his bread and butter. The Night Watch, which began as a group portrait commission, became in his hands more like a history painting and in so doing, changed the standard for painting multiple folks forever. Meanwhile still life occupied such a lowly spot in the hierarchy that even women could make a living creating them.
Today history painting is a rare thing indeed, displaced by the Impressionists, then buried by Abstract Expressionism. But still life, once the stepchild of fine art, has enjoyed a prosperous existence with practitioners ranging from the renowned Giorgio Morandi to the present online Carol Marine.

My oil still life, Teapot, Short and Stout, is a humble nod to those long-ago women painters of pots and flowers who received such grudging respect.


  1. There is such a sense of peacefulness and serenity in your work. They always look effortless as well, but I know you work hard to achieve this look. And of course your colors always cheer me up!

  2. Thank you, Christine, you're right sometimes the serenity is all on the canvas, the angst all in the painter! I'm glad you like it. I almost never do still life but when I do, it's a challenge.

  3. Excellent still life! I find that they are a lot harder than they look. My favorite subject is people. I really like how you do more comments about other art on your blog and it inspires me to do more myself. My favorite reading is about art - sometimes actual history, sometimes partly fiction- the kind based on some reality.- Loraine Wellman

  4. Thank you, Loraine. Sometimes I feel art obsessed! Because I spend so much time thinking and writing about it...also of course, doing it.

  5. Shirley,
    I love the softness of your edges. The background has such a pleasing pattern of brushwork.


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Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...