Curated by David Smith
The still life is still alive and well as a popular subject for artists. This exhibition will present classic and contemporary approaches to the genre by Alberta, Canadian, and International artists selected from the U of L Art Collection. Includes new acquisitions by artists such as David Hockney, Mary Pratt, and Tony Scherman as well as staples such as work by Georges Braque.
The genre of still life has been a part of art history for many centuries. In the hierarchy of genres, still life has historically received less attention than history, landscape or portraiture. The tradition nonetheless caries on to the present day for a couple of important reasons: firstly, many art instructors today continue to use still life exercises as a way to introduce new artists to the visual language of representation; secondly, accomplished contemporary artists like Mary Pratt, whose work is featured on the two panels outside the main gallery, use still life imagery today to depict simple subjects in a way that positions her as a master of her craft. As technology developed, artists like Edward Steichen and Ian Baxter& began to use photography to create works in the enduring genre. It is clear that still life appeals to many artists at various stages of their artistic careers.
One can not discuss the genre without the mentioning a particular style of still life called vanitas. This was popular in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries and features subjects of a symbolic nature that remind the viewer of the temporal nature of life, but also the certainty of death and mortality. While there are no works from the 16th and 17th centuries in this exhibition, there are works which explore the style, such as Bertram Brooker’s painting in the main gallery titled, Art is Long, which features a human skull next to the usual fabric and furniture typical of still life works. The many floral woks included in this exhibition also remind us of the frail and fleeting nature of life.
The still life works chosen for this exhibition showcase a variety of media, subjects and artists within the University of Lethbridge Art Collection. They remain today as they did when they were first created, very much alive.
– David Smith, Assistant Curator/Preparator