It’s quite sad that 18th-century painter Luis Melendez died poor and relatively unknown and yet he is now recognized as one, if not the, greatest still life art painter of his day. His style and approach as a still life artist breathed new life into a genre that was already well established, and most importantly he did things differently when it came to composing his works. All of which solidify his standing as one of Spain’s greatest artists.
|Still Life with Melon and Pears
by Luis Melendez, oil on canvas, 18th century.
Melendez did not in any way scorn the achievements or focus of the still life artists that preceded him. Like Zurbaran and Juan Sanchez Cotan, he knew how to present light effects, texture, and color of the objects in his paintings of still life.
|Still Life with Fruit and a Jar
by Luis Melendez, oil on canvas, 1773.
What he did do differently was bring those sumptuous fruits, glistening glassware, glimmering copper pots, and crusty bread closer to the viewer in the picture plane. He dropped his vantage point as well, allowing the viewer to peruse the objects from a slightly elevated angle.
These are small modifications and yet they give the viewer a better look at the objects by more fully turning them to the light. The details of texture and light that Melendez adds to the surfaces of the objects makes it seem like they are being held in the viewer’s own hands. The result is everyday objects presented in a monumental way, reinforcing the joy of sight that must have provoked the artist to pursue still life painting with such rigor.
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