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Still Life with Fowl, c. 1728-30

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin

French, 1699-1779
Oil on canvas (one of a pair)
15-3/4 x 12-3/8 in. (40.0 x 31.4 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1969.38.03.2.P
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

The food and kitchen utensils in this painting appears casually arranged. These displays are, however, based on carefully calculated visual relationships. In Still Life with Fowl, the curving forms of the mortar and pestle echo that of the green jug. The scene betokens an intimate domesticity, a place of blessing related to the fundaments of human life.

Chardin’s contemporaries recognized that his method of applying paint and color was unique and unprecedented. Denis Diderot, an Enlightenment philosopher and art writer, said of Chardin in a 1765 Salon review, “it is the air and light you take with the tip of your brush and fix to your canvas…
[your work] exists between nature and art.” Chardin’s skill at imparting the haptic, or tactile, qualities of motionless objects through the steady emphasis of his brush, rather than a faithful reproduction of the details, promotes a sense of quiet harmony.

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