Nature Rearranged

A Century of the Still Life at the WAG

Christopher Wood, Carnations in a Green Vase, c. 1925. oil on canvas. 28.1 x 23.4 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift from the Estate of Arnold O. Brigden, G-73-283. Photographer: Ernest Mayer.

FEBRUARY 18-MAY 2017

Artists have been creating still life paintings for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the oldest genres in the history of art. At first glance, the still life may appear uncomplicated. Its components – flowers, plants, domestic articles, and foodstuffs – are familiar to everyday life. So what is it about these arrangements that continues to inspire and challenge artists?

In celebration of Art in Bloom 2017, Nature Rearranged takes a closer look at the flower power fueling the last century of Canadian and European art. Alongside still-life paintings is a selection of exquisite table objects from the WAG’s renowned collection of English porcelain that offers an equally compelling story of the lasting beauty of the flower in the decorative arts.

The still-life painting is demanding but it rewards its viewer with each encounter. There is no single reference point to compare one composition to another because the still life comes into being only when the artist creates it, making it unique as a genre.  The still life’s existence is based not on events, actions, or personalities, but on a process of looking at the contents of life around us. The act of gathering, composing, and dismantling in art has persisted for centuries. What has changed is how we interpret this process.

Curated by Dr. Stephen D. Borys, WAG Director & CEO

Morris & Co. English, 19th century. Designers: Morris, May; Jack, George., Draught Screen, 1890–1900. mahogany, silk damask, silk thread. 92 x 229.5 x 3.2 cm Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Gift of an anonymous donor, 2009-427. Photo: Ernest Mayer.

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