The modern and contemporary view on Still life at Gouda Museum

The Still Life exhibition at the Museum Gouda, in The Netherlands, is extended until September 13th 2020. The Still Life exhibition shows a beautiful, innovative image of Dutch and Belgian still life from around 1870 to the present day and examines the significance for artists. The still life has been a popular genre of painting for centuries, and it has a long tradition. Who does not know those beautiful paintings with the most exotic objects and flowers from the seventeenth century? At the end of the nineteenth century, however, the still life changes strongly. Dutch and Flemish painters abandon the classical, extremely realistically painted and arranged compositions.

Exotic bouquets are replaced by flowers from the garden, luxury items give way to everyday pots and vases. The use of colour becomes more exuberant, and the images become more abstract. But the most important development: artists see the still life as the ultimate form of expression, which offers them all possibilities in the search for form, colour and composition. Artists such as Floris Verster, James Ensor, Jan Sluijters and Pyke Koch choose the still life with conviction. The radical innovations in modern art also influence the still life. Such as in the abstract still lifes of Bart van der Leck or in the expressionist work of Gustave de Smet. Still life is still popular today. The Netherlands’ best-known photographer Erwin Olaf, for example, makes beautiful flower still lifes. The exhibition in Gouda shows this essence of the modern Dutch and Belgian still life in the exhibition with the aid of six themes: form, colour, texture, composition, flat lay, still life. An artist can depict objects in his still lifes in very different ways. The artist chooses the form that suits the feeling he wants to convey and that ties in with his way of working. The colour palette plays a very explicit part in expressionism: objects are often given a colour that does not suit them, but that conveys a feeling. The still life is usually composed by the artist with great care.  The objects are arranged for as long as it takes to create the composition that is perfect for the painter. Flat lay literally means ‘laying flat’. The flat-lay is popular on social media, with photos of objects on a flat surface, taken from above. But the interplay of the flat surface and three-dimensional objects has been a regular feature in still-life painting for ages.


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