Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: Height: 800 mm (31.49 in); Width: 610 mm (24.01 in)
What I love about this painting:
This scene depicts the very essence of abundance and comfort. Every piece of fruit in this image is perfect, begging to be eaten, every flower wishes to be admired. Carnations, grapes, plums, figs, apples, a melon, raspberries, and numerous other fruits occupy the center of the image. Butterflies have found the flowers.
In the background, slightly out of focus as if the centerpiece is seen through a camera lens, we have a lush garden, a fantasy of earthly paradise. Far to the rear of the scene, painted as if they just happened to stray into it, two figures on a low bridge carry on a quiet conversation beneath a graceful statue.
More than any other artist of his time, van Huysum understood how to show the “life” aspect of still-life by combining fantasy with the faithful reproduction of perfect, ripe fruit.
Yesterday, here in the US, we enjoyed our lockdown pandemic version of Thanksgiving. Despite not hosting the large extended family gathering we usually do, we offered our thanks for the abundance in our lives, the multitude of blessings for which we are truly grateful.
This painting celebrates food in plentiful, mouthwatering profusion, a true blessing for which we should all be thankful.
About the Artist: The website at the National Gallery says:
Jan van Huysum (1682 – 1749) was the last of the distinguished still life painters active in the Northern Netherlands in the 17th and early 18th centuries, and an internationally celebrated artist in his lifetime. Although he specialised in flower still lifes, van Huysum also painted a few landscapes.
His early works are more concentrated in design than his elaborate later paintings, like the Gallery’s Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, with its lighter background and superabundance of detail.
Van Huysum was a native of Amsterdam and was trained, according to Arnold Houbraken, by his father, who was also a still life painter. His first dated work is of 1706.
Van Huysum often travelled to horticultural centres like Haarlem so he could make sketches of rare and unusual flowers. During his lifetime, his flower paintings were sold for as much as 2,000 guilders, and he had famous patrons including the Duc d’Orléans, William VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, and Sir Robert Walpole.
Credits and Attributions:
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan van Huysum (Dutch – Fruit Piece – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_van_Huysum_(Dutch_-_Fruit_Piece_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=507579017 (accessed November 25, 2020).
National Gallery Contributors, Biography of Jan van Huysum (1682 – 1749) | National Gallery, London ©2020 National Gallery, London https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/jan-van-huysum (accessed November 25, 2020).