With the end of Thanksgiving, I have chosen a simple still life by an American artist from our Collections to contemplate the abundance of the recent holiday.
Anderson, Lennart (1928-)
Still Life with Mason Jar Lid, 1952-53.
Oil on canvas, 25 x 36 cm.
Lennart Anderson was born in 1928. He studied at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, Cranbrook Academy, and at the Art Students League under Edwin Dickinson. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is an Associate of the American Academy of Design. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Tiffany Foundation Grant, and the Rome Prize. He has had solo exhibitions at many galleries. He was an art instructor for many years in the New York area, having taught at Yale, Columbia and Princeton Universities, at Pratt Institute, Skowhegan School, Art Students League, and the New York Studio School. He is now a Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College. For many years his work consisted of large, ambitious neoclassical figure compositions. Later his paintings were on a smaller, more informal scale: a few portraits, some lovely landscapes and a lot of still lifes. He gave careful serious attention to these traditional problems, and in the process he invested each of his objects with grace and presence.
The classical definition of a still life – a work of art depicting inanimate, typically commonplace objects that are either natural (food, flowers or game) or man-made (glasses, books, vases and other collectibles) conveys little about the rich associations inherent to this genre. In the academic tradition of Western art, still life occupied the lowest position in the hierarchy of the arts, which recognized history painting, portraiture and landscape painting as superior. It was disparaged critically and theoretically as mere copying that lacked artistic imagination and placed no intellectural demands on the viewer. We posit that nothing could be further from the truth for this category of art, which hovers between mimesis and symbolism, and in which artistic skill and fantasy are tantamount to its success. Still lifes explore the wealth of aesthetic and conceptual artistic strategies that challenge the view of still life as simply an art of imitation. Still life continues to be an important vehicle of expression.