said, some still life paintings of the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age
packed a strong moral punch. The most dramatic of them interspersed
the traditional flowers and fruit interspersed with fatalismo like
mirror is a symbol of the vanity of earthly pleasures and an hourglass
is a subtle reminder of the passage of time. The inference was that,
by drawing attention to the impermanence of life, the painting would
focus the mind on the hereafter.
life remained a lesser genre and its painters were described as "the
foot soldiers in the army of art". This was good news for the
punters - the subject matter of a painting had a direct relationship
to its price. Less so for the artists. If you wanted to paint in a
lesser genre, you had to settle for a lesser price.
course you'll find Irish auctioneers getting excited about still life
paintings by Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940). "He'd be the best of
them," says Rory Guthrie of de Veres Art Auctions. "A good
Roderic is still worth a lot of money and you could pay up to €100,000
for a really good one." It's not surprising - O'Conor's paintings
are luminous, dynamic, and very much not the academic exercise that
still life is so often accused of being. If you have one, you'll probably
want to keep it.
upcoming de Veres Art Auction includes Still Life with Artichokes
by Pauline Bewick (b 1935) and Japanese Pear by Charles Brady (1926-1997).
Each of these is estimated to sell for between €2,000 and €3,000
on February 24 at Bewley's Ballsbridge Hotel. Brady's work - recognisable,
simple, and often dealing with a single item rather than an elaborate
composition - is particular popular and his paintings have been known
to sell for between €3,000 and €5,000.
Still life tends to be a quiet genre and easy to live with. Big ideas are all very well in a gallery, but they can be less comfortable in the living room, where flowers and fruit work just fine. The bottom line is that artists still want to paint in the genre, negotiating its legacy as a lesser art with panache.
of the Irish artists making interesting work in the genre include
Martin Mooney, whose Still Life in Blue (2014) sold at Adams for €1,600
in December 2014 and Conor Walton who plays with the symbolism of
"vanitas" painting in a contemporary way. Still Life with
Judgement XI shows a death mask on a kitchen scales, on a pile of
art books, along with photorealistic fruit and flowers. Much to think
about here! Walton's prices range from €1,000 to €20,000
depending on the size of the work.