When I first encountered the still life paintings of Eric Wert, I was struck by his use of color: vibrant and intense, yet controlled and always in the service of the composition.
I then was impressed with his handling of complex detailed compositions, often with multiple elements in front of intricate background patterns on wallpaper, wood or fabric.
The more I looked at his representation of natural forms, however, the more I was fascinated with his keen powers of observation, and fluid but precise rendering of his natural forms. Though there isn’t a direct similarity of appearance, I was reminded of the intense accuracy of some of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, whose dedication to the truthful representation of nature resulted in plant and animal images that were accurate enough to be scientific illustrations.
On researching Wert, I found that he was, at one time, a scientific illustrator, and has put his obviously considerable skills in that regard in service of his gallery art.
Wert’s approach to composition and painting style actually owe more to the Dutch still life painters than the English storytellers, but there also seems to be a narrative element to his work. His florals, for example, are rarely straightforward, but often involve vases tipped on their sides, contents spilled on the table, petals scattered — or even live plants removed from a pot and plopped down of a table in their ball of dirt.
As I continued to explore Wert’s work, I was also impressed with his control of value, a skill made particularly clear in his graphite drawings (images above, second from bottom). I later found out, without surprise, that he begins his paintings with a grisaille and works his colors in layers of glazes.
There is a selection of drawings on Wert’s website, along with galleries of recent paintings and archives. Fortunately, the images are large enough that you can at least get some idea of his approach. There is a single high-resolution image of the image above, top, on the ARC website, where it was a finalist in the still life category for the 2012-2013 ARC Salon.