Though he also painted landscapes, interiors and figures, 19th Century French painter Antoine Vollon was best know for his lushly painted still lifes.
Vollon was greatly influenced by the superb still life painter Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, and followed in his love of simple food and kitchen related genre subjects.
At his most expressive, Vollon’s thick, fluid impasto paint strokes gave visceral presence to the term “buttery”, that painters use to describe paint that flows off the brush in consistency that is workably fluid but thick enough to be manipulated as brushstrokes. This is seen in the remarkable brushwork of his aptly chosen subject of Mound of Butter (above, top with detail crop).
Vollon’s landscapes have some of the feeling of the works of his contemporaries Charles Daubigny and Eugéne Boudin that presaged Impressionism.
The story goes that Vollon’s aspirations as a figurative artist were quashed by Manet’s comments on his otherwise well received painting of a woman carrying a basket, Femme du Pollet á Dieppe, of which he said: “Bah! What is Vollon’s Femme? A basket that walks!”
If that resulted in Vollon’s concentration on still life, then we are the happy recipients of the results, which can be striking, particularly when viewed in detail. Many of the pieces listed on the Christie’s and Sotheby’s past auction results (listed below) are zoomable, but the best image I’ve found is the Met’s high res image of Vollon’s Still Life with Cheese (above, third and fourth down).