Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life / National Gallery of Art, Washington






National Gallery of Art, Washington



Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life
May 17 through August 23, 2009




Delights of the Spanish table depicted by 18th-century painter Luis Meléndez (1715-1780) will be presented to American audiences for the first time in nearly 25 years at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.


Luis Meléndez


Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 – 1780)
Still Life with Box of Jellied Fruit, Bread, Silver Salver, Glass, and Wine Cooler, signed and dated 1770
oil on canvas
overall: 49.5 x 37 cm (19 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.)
© Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid





In a rare opportunity to explore the artist’s working method, Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life will showcase 31 paintings, some of which have never been exhibited publicly, and nine examples of 18th-century kitchenware similar to those used as studio props by Meléndez.

“The greatest still-life painter of 18th-century Spain, Luis Meléndez had an extraordinary talent for rendering everyday objects with convincing detail, marvelous effects of color and light, and subtle variations in texture,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are grateful to the museums and private collectors who graciously agreed to share their paintings, some for the first time.”




    Exhibition Highlights

Paintings, which will be loosely grouped by subject, include nine still lifes from the royal commission and the elegant Self-Portrait (1746) painted while the artist was a student at the academy. The first of his characteristic vertical-format compositions, Still Life with Small Pears, Bread, White Pitcher, Glass Bottle, and Earthenware Bowl (1760), illustrates Meléndez’s typical method of painting from foreground to background.


Luis Meléndez


Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 – 1780)
Still Life with Beef, Bowl of Ham and Vegetables, and Receptacles, c. 1772
oil on canvas
63.5 x 83.5 cm (25 x 32 7/8 in.);
framed: 85.1 x 107 x 8.2 cm (33 1/2 x 42 1/8 x 3 1/4 in.)
Private collection
© All rights reserved





Meléndez often created compositions based on meals served at a particular time of year or according to the religious calendar. He presented the elements of a meatless Lenten meal in Still Life with Cauliflower and Basket of Fish, Eggs, and Leeks (c. 1770), for instance, and the ingredients for a traditional winter dish in Still Life with Bread, Oranges, Garlic, Condiments, and Kitchen Utensils (1772).

Hot chocolate, a favorite of the Spanish upper classes since its introduction from South America in the 16th century, was showcased in Meléndez’s Still Life with Chocolate Service, Bread Roll, and Biscuits (1770). An 18th-century copper chocolate pot and wooden whisk, like those used to make hot chocolate in Meléndez’s day, will be on view in an adjacent case.

Meléndez kept in his studio a stock of props, mostly common kitchenware, which are frequent subjects in his paintings. In Still Life with Bread, Bottle, and Jug (c. 1770) and Still Life with Bread, Grapes, Jug, and Receptacles (c. 1770), the bread, a ceramic jug with a broken plate as a lid, and wooden-handled utensils are arranged identically, except the viewpoint has shifted. Although the paintings share motifs, each one is strikingly inventive. For example, Still Life with Pigeons, Onions, Bread, and Kitchen Utensils (c. 1774), the first of Meléndez’s works to enter an American collection in 1938, reiterates the pigeons found in Still Life with Game (c. 1770).


Luis Meléndez


Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 – 1780)
Still Life with Bream, Oranges, Garlic, Condiments, and Kitchen Utensils, signed and dated 1772
oil on canvas
overall: 41 x 62.2 cm (16 1/8 x 24 1/2 in.)
© Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Luis Meléndez


Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 – 1780)
Still Life with Watermelons and Apples in a Landscape, signed and dated 1771
oil on canvas
overall: 63 x 84 cm (24 7/8 x 33 in.)
© Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid





Several works by Meléndez relate to each other as pairs. The diagonal landscape settings of Still Life with Watermelons and Apples in a Landscape (1771), and Still Life with Pomegranates, Apples, Azaroles, and Grapes in a Landscape (1771) echo one another, and these works may be his first to incorporate rocky landscapes with distant buildings and cloudy skies, replacing his usual wooden tabletop and dark, undefined interior.


Catalogue

A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue includes scholarly essays by Peter Cherry on the life and career of Meléndez, independent scholar Natacha Seseña on the everyday objects he portrayed, and Hirschauer and Metzger on the technical studies of the artist’s meticulous painting method, as well as individual entries on each of the paintings in the exhibition. Published with Yale University Press, the catalogue is 220 pages with 143 color and 40 black-and-white illustrations and will be available in May 2009 from the Gallery Shops for $60 (hardcover) and $30 (softcover). To order, call (800) 697-9350 or (202) 842-6002; fax (202) 789-3047; or email.





    Courtesy The National Gallery of Art, Washington
    Images © Their respective owners


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~ by Stampfli & Turci on June 10, 2009.

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