Art of Arrangement: Photography and the Still Life Tradition, is the new exhibition at the Holburne Museum, Bath. The show explores the range and diversity of still life photography and includes works from such photographers as Edward Steichen, Roger Fenton, William Henry Fox Talbot and Madame Yevonde.
Many of the selected images resemble traditional still life paintings, for instance Frederick Tutton’s Dessert (1923). Dessert captures the classic still life subject: an arrangement of fruit on a table top. A carafe of wine stands next to an abundance of fruit, which artfully tumbles from its bowl to the table. The rich colours and formal arrangement place Dessert in a long line of still life painting, from the grapes and vines of Caravaggio, to Cézanne’s famous apples and oranges.
Phillippe Halsman’s Dalí Atomicus (1948) is an entirely different picture. Halsman captures Salvador Dalí leaping gleefully in his studio, paintbrush in hand, three cats suspended in mid-air. Furniture floats about him and a stream of water flies across the room. The photograph is a portrait, but it is also a collection of objects. By granting the objects movement and life, Halsman plays with our expectations of the genre, seemingly removing the ‘still’ from still life. At the same time, by freezing the figures in motion, Holsman’s image suggests a broader interpretation of still life photography; the camera captures moving ‘life’ before it, and renders it ‘still’.
With photographs from the 1800s to the present day, the exhibition offers an intriguing range of images, from the macabre gloom of Thomas Williams’ Sands of Time, to the scientific beauty of Fox Talbot’s Insect wings. Drawn entirely from the collections of the National Media Museum, Art of Arrangement promises to be a diverse and surprising exhibition.
Art of Arrangement: Photography and the Still-Life Tradition is at the Holburne Museum until 7th May 2012. For more information visit www.holburne.org.