Eye Candy for Today: Jan van Huysum still life

Fruit Piece, Jan van Huysu, highly detailed 18th century Dutch still life
Fruit Piece, Jan van Huysum

The link is to a zoomable version on Google Art Project; there is a large (14mb) downloadable image on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the Getty Museum, which also has a zoomable image, as well as a large (18mb) downloadable image.

Even among the highly detailed and superbly rendered still life compositions of his contemporaries, I find the work of 18th century Dutch painter Jan van Huysum extraordinary.

There is a richness of tactile reality and a physical presence in his work that bears witness to his insistence on painting from life, often delaying the progress of a painting until certain flowers were in bloom.

He’s taken the practice of including insects in still life paintings to another level, not only including multiple examples, but studying them with the eye of an entomologist, and his plant forms with with an accuracy that would stun most botanical artists.

It’s not the detail itself that impresses me, however — that’s seldom satisfying on its own — it’s the way Van Huysum has incorporated that level of keen observation and intricate rendering with the artistic goals of a harmonious, dramatic composition. His control of color, texture, and in particular, value, is a joy to behold.

The painting involves you in levels, inviting you further and further into the depths of the artist’s fascination with the visual splendor of nature at a small scale.


2 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Jan van Huysum still life”

  1. Absolutely incredible!
    He must have painted this over the course of at least a year.
    He has Irises (spring), peaches and raspberries (early summer), grapes and currants, (late summer), pomegranates and walnuts in the husk, (fall or winter).

  2. My understanding is that he used glazes, which have to dry between applications, sometimes for weeks, so it’s not surprising that he might have worked on a series of canvasses over extended periods.

Comments are closed.