Patrick Noon

1848/49 that was a year of social and political turmoil throughout Europe. The 1848 Revolution which displaced huge numbers of people, in that year Delacroix decided he is going to paint a series of monumental still-lifes, he hadn’t painted still-lifes in his entire life. And he begins five, he finally finishes two which he is satisfied with and he sends those to the 1849 Salon.

His point in painting these still-lifes, which he had never done before, was simply to either amuse himself also he is involved in, still at this point painting murals, so probably a way of relaxing as well and not having to think too much about what you are painting and the message you are trying to communicate. But he does say, he wanted to avoid hackwork that he said appears to condemn flower painters by making the same vase sitting on the same column and with the same array of flowers. And what he really wanted to do, was to make what he called morsels of nature in a natural setting. So you have this little group of fruit in a flower garden. And these are non-narrative pictures, they are really about painting, they are really about color, that’s it.

So he exhibits them in the Salon but neither of them were purchased by anyone. So the whole group of five end up staying in his studio. And periodically he would bring them out for exhibition. In 1855 there was a big exhibition of his work. And then in 1860/61 a dealer in Paris offered to show all five of these pictures in his gallery. At that very moment everybody in Paris starts painting floral still-lifes.

Monet, one of the Monet’s very first paintings is a floral still-life. Renoir: floral still-lifes. They tell Bazille, their friend who came from Bordeaux, he really should paint still-lifes. So it becomes this incredible fashion, even an artist like Gustave Courbet who was the antithesis of Delacroix in terms of his approach to art, takes up still-life painting in 1862, and The Trellis which is in our exhibition by Courbet is probably the most beautiful of those examples.

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