2016 PhotoChallenge, Week 12: Still life – Dutch masters – Guest Post

This week’s challenge takes us back to the 17th century, the golden age of Dutch painting. It was in this period that still life (derived from Dutch ‘stilleven’) emerged as a separate category in the fine arts. Since it was forbidden to depict any religious symbols in Protestant Holland, Dutch painters focussed on capturing everyday scenes: flowers, food, dead animals, and manmade objects like glasses, plates an pitchers.

Willem Claesz Heda – Still life with gold plated bowl
Willem Claesz Heda – Still life with gold plated bowl

Still life paintings from this period are characterised by an incredible sense of detail and realism, and painters were true masters of light. As such, they’re a wonderful inspiration for us photographers. This challenge is all about light, and using it to capture different textures, surfaces and reflections. And of course, a still life is a pre-composed image, so go and delve into those second hand shops and look for pewter plates, china, glassware, withered books, perhaps even a skull…

Types of still life

Still life painting comes in different categories. For each category, I’ve listed an example from the 17th century, and one from a contemporary photographer.

Vanitas – Symbolising the vainness of earthly life, with skulls, hourglasses, old books and withered flowers.

 

Vanitas – Harmen Steenwijck
Vanitas – Harmen Steenwijck

 

Vanitas – Marije van der Klugt
Vanitas – Marije van der Klugt

 

Pronk (lit. ‘to show off’): an ostentatious display of the wealth of the owner, with rare foods, luscious colors, rich draperies and precious china and silverware.

 

Still life with aquamanile, vegetables and a nautilus – Willem Kalff
Still life with aquamanile, vegetables and a nautilus – Willem Kalff

 

Still life after Willem Kalff – Levin Rodriguez
Still life after Willem Kalff – Levin Rodriguez


 Ontbijtjes (‘Little breakfasts’), Banketjes (‘little banquets’) and Toebackjes (‘little tobacco scenes’) depict a more sober kind of scene, with one, or just a few, objects of humble origin.

 

Still life with asparagus – Adriaan Coorte
Still life with asparagus – Adriaan Coorte

                                                      

Still life with lemons – Maaike Groenewege
Still life with lemons – Maaike Groenewege

 

I hope you enjoy this challenge and look forward to your take on the Dutch masters. Veel succes!
About Maaike Groenewege

I live in the middle of the Netherlands together with Significant Other (who features regularly in my Photochallenge images) and my two cats Bumper and Pebbles (who are also no stranger to modelling). I’ve been glued to my compact camera for the last ten years, still love my Sony RX-100 and switched to a Nikon D7200 in 2015. I love street photography, conceptual photography, macro and still life.

I’ve just finished the entry course at the Dutch Photo Academy, and will start a degree in Photographic Design at the University of Applied Photography in August 2016. You can find my portfolio at www.maaaike.nl (that’s right, there’s three aaa’s in there. Just for fun J )

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org or #photochallenge2016.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

 

 

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