Inanimate Objects

Tue 21 Jan 2014


In eighteenth-century colonial America, flowers and fruit were typically the province of the botanical artist interested in scientific illustration rather than being the subjects of fine art. Early in the nineteenth century, however, the Peale family of Philadelphia established the still life, a picture consisting mainly of inanimate objects, as a valuable part of the artist's repertoire. The fruit paintings by James and Sarah Miriam Peale are simple arrangements of a few objects, handsomely colored, small in size, and representing little more than what they are. In contrast were the highly symbolic, complex compositions by Charles Bird King, with their biting satire and critical social commentary. Each of these strains comminuted into and well past mid-century.

John F. Francis (1808-86) was a part of the Pennsylvania still-life tradition that arose, at least in part, from the work of the Peales. Most of his still lifes date from around 1850 to 1875. Luncheon Still Life looks like one of the Peales' pieces on a larger scale, kits greater complexity resulting from the number of objects. It is also indebted to the luncheon type of still life found in seventeenth-century Dutch painting. The opened bottles of wine and the glasses of wine partially consumed suggest a number of unseen guests. The appeal of the fruit and nuts to our sense of taste is heightened by the juicy orange, which has already been sliced. The arrangement is additive, that is, made up of many different parts, not always compositionally integrated, with all objects of essentially equal importance.

About 1848, Severin Roesen came to the United States from Germany and settled in New York City, where he began to paint large, lush still lifes of flowers, fruit, or both, often measuring over four feet across. Still Life with Fruit and champagne is typical in its brilliance of color, meticulous rendering of detail, compact composition, and unabashed abundance. Rich in symbolic overtones, the beautifully painted objects carry additional meanings------butterflies or fallen buds suggest the impermanence of life, a bird's nest with eggs means fertility, and so on. Above all, Roesen's art expresses the abundance that America symbolized to many of its citizens.

Questions:

1. What does the passage mainly discuss?

(A) The artwork of James and Sarah Miriam Peale

(B) How Philadelphia became a center for art in the nineteenth century

(C) Nineteenth-century still-life paintings in the United States

(D) How botanical art inspired the first still-life paintings

2. Which of the following is mentioned as a characteristic of the still lifes of James and Sarah Miriam Peale?

(A) Simplicity

(B) Symbolism

(C) Smooth texture

(D) Social commentary

3. The word "biting" in line 8 is closest in meaning to

(A) simple

(B) sorrowful

(B) frequent

(D) sharp

4. The word "It" in line 14 refers to

(A) Luncheon Still Life

(B) one of the Peales' pieces

(C) a larger scale

(D) the number of objects

5. The word "heightened" in line 18 is closest in meaning to

(A) complicated

(B) directed

(C) observed

(D) increased

6. The word "meticulous" in line 24 is closest in meaning to

(A) careful

(B) significant

(C) appropriate

(D) believable

7. Which of the following terms is defined in the passage?

(A) "repertoire" (line 5)

(B) "satire" (line 9)

(C) "additive" (line 19)

(D) "rendering" (line 24)

8. All of the following are mentioned as characteristics of Roesen's still lifes EXCEPT that they

(A) are symbolic

(B) use simplified representations of flowers and fruit

(C) include brilliant colors

(D) are large in size

9. Which of the following is mentioned as the dominant theme in Roesen's painting?

(A) Fertility

(B) Freedom

(C) Impermanence

(D) Abundance

Answers:

1)C 2)A 3)D 4)A 5)D 6)A 7)C 8)B 9)D

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