By the 18th century, in many cases, the religious and allegorical connotations of still life paintings were dropped and kitchen table paintings evolved into calculated depictions of varied color and form, displaying everyday foods. The French aristocracy employed artists to execute paintings of bounteous and extravagant still life subjects that graced their dining table, also without the moralistic vanitas message of their Dutch predecessors. The Rococo love of artifice led to a rise in appreciation in France for trompe-l'œil (French: "trick the eye") painting. Jean-Baptiste Chardin’s still life paintings employ a variety of techniques from Dutch-style realism to softer harmonies.
The bulk of Anne Vallayer-Coster’s work was devoted to the language of still-life as it had been developed in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During these centuries, the genre of still-life was placed lowest on the hierarchical ladder. Vallayer-Coster had a way about her paintings that resulted in their attractiveness. It was the "bold, decorative lines of her compositions, the richness of her colors and simulated textures, and the feats of illusionism she achieved in depicting wide variety of objects, both natural and artificial" which drew in the attention of the Royal Académie and the numerous collectors who purchased her paintings. This interaction between art and nature was quite common in Dutch, Flemish and French still lifes. Her work reveals the clear influence of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, as well as 17th-century Dutch masters, whose work has been far more highly valued, but what made Vallayer-Coster’s style stand out against the other still life painters was her unique way of coalescing representational illusionism with decorative compositional structures.
The end of the eighteenth-century and the fall of the French monarchy closed the doors on Vallayer-Coster’s still life ‘era’ and opened them to her new style of florals. It has been argued that this was the highlight of her career and what she is best known for. However, it has also been argued that the flower paintings were futile to her career. Nevertheless, this collection contained floral studies in oil, watercolor and gouache.
Rachel Ruysch, Still-Life with Bouquet of Flowers and Plums, 1704, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Rachel Ruysch, Still Life with Flowers on a Marble Tabletop, 1716
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699–1779), The Ray 1728, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with Glass Flask and Fruit, c. 1750
Anne Vallayer-Coster, The Attributes of Painting, c. 1769
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Still Life with a Round Bottle, c. 1770
Read more about this topic: Still Life
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