A four-year collaboration between several major museums culminates in Atlanta with a gorgeous exhibition of American still life painting from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Since 2011, the High Museum, Atlanta, the Louvre Museum, Paris, and the Crystal Bridges Museum, Arkansas, have collaborated on a series of exhibitions exploring the history of American art, culminating with a display of exquisite still life paintings in Atlanta.  “The Simple Pleasures of Still Life” follows previous installations detailing the stories behind important themes in American art, including landscape, genre, and portraiture. 

William Michael Harnett, “Still Life with Bust of Dante,” ca. 1883, oil on panel, (c) High Museum of Art 2015

The current exhibition illuminates how American painters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries adapted European still life traditions to American aesthetic and taste.  Bringing together some of the biggest names of American still life, including Raphelle Peale, Martin Johnson Heade, Joseph Biays Ord, and William Sidney Mount.
A highlight of the show is Ord’s “Still Life with Shells,” circa 1840.  Beautifully illuminated are a diverse arrangement of sea shells along a tightly-cropped shore.  Ord’s attention to detail and ability to decipher different textures is magnetic, especially the iridescence of the central and smaller shells in the foreground and center.  Also noteworthy is William Michael Harnett’s “Still Life with Bust of Dante,” circa 1883.  Perhaps more closely aligned with his European predecessors, Harnett displays a variety of books, papers, musical instruments, and more in his composition.  A tapestry hangs over the edge with what could be described as a Native American design. 
“American Encounters: The Simple Pleasures of Still Life” opens on September 26 and will hang through January 31.
To learn more, visit the High Museum of Art.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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