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François Bonvin

Still Life


François Bonvin
Vaugirard, Paris, 1817 – Saint-Germain-en-Laye 1887


Still Life


About 1870


Oil on canvas


37.6 x 46.1 cm


Gift of Dr. Francis J. Shepherd, inv. 1921.11


Western Art

Bonvin was one of a group of artists who challenged the Academic position that still-life painting was a mode of artistic expression inferior to the lofty genre of history and religious painting. Bonvin championed the Realist notion that everyday subject matter was the truest form of artistic expression. Essentially self-taught, he was the first French painter of his generation to study the works of Chardin. More than any other artist of his day, he took seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century still-life and genre painters as exemplars. He was instrumental in bringing them to the attention of the official art circles. By the end of the nineteenth century, thanks in large measure to his efforts as well as those of Ribot and later the Impressionists, the legitimization of the humble still life had again been achieved. The restrained palette, dominated by brownish and ruddy tones (today a little darkened through chemical changes in the paint), shows Bonvin’s careful study of Chardin’s subdued and diffused colour values.

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