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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Art and Wine

Gold in the Late Afternoon, Thomas Stiltz
While art and wine do tend to go
together, this might be pushing it.
When the subject of still-life painting arises, the first image as to content tends to be the proverbial bowl of fruit. From that point down the content hierarchy we find items such as flowers, food, books, and perhaps second on that list, wine bottles. Coupled with them are wine glasses, the wine itself, grapes, and perhaps the occasional corkscrew. The fact is, art and wine go together like gallery openings and rich clients--just ask any gallery owner. Add to that some choice chunks of cheese and other hors d'oeuvres and you have a sure winner. That was somewhat the frame of mind I was in when I painted Temptations (below), back in 1998. It's almost as if it's a rite of passage that every artist has to paint at least one still-life containing wine bottles, appropriate sipping crystal, and assoc-iated accompaniment. Having said that, the problem is that such content has become so common that the word "trite" keeps coming to mind. Indeed, about ninety percent of all such work, perhaps my version as well, tends to fall under that label. It takes a truly daring, innovative, outside-the-box artist to add anything new to the genre. Here I've tried to cull from the thousands...dare I say millions...of such painting on the Internet some which have, if not succeeded at this goal, at least made a valiant effort to do so.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Temptations, 1998, Jim Lane

Some painters, such as Thomas Stiltz with his Gold in the Late Afternoon (top), break free from the "trite trap" through sheer brilliance as to color, composition, and technical prowess despite the general overexposure of his content. Others, as represented by Wine and Grapes (below) do not.

Wine and Grapes--technically adept but tritely traditional in all other respects.
Still-Life With Grapes And Clarinet, Georges Braque
Surprisingly, very few still-life painters out of the past have seemed much interested in portraying anything associated with the "fruit of the vine," as religious fundamentalist eu-phemistically refer to wine. You see the occasional wine bottles, and once in a while a bit of stemware, the occas-ional group of grapes, but rarely are they to be found in the same still-life celebrating one of the staples of the European diet. I find that strange, but then again, per-haps most of the "name brand" still-life artist from the past have been shrewd enough to avoid such passé content. The closest I could come in my search for such work was a still-life by the famous Picasso compatriot, Georges Braque (above, right).

Repetition highlighting the artist's personal style.
Champagne Collection, Jenny Muncaster (above-top),
Time to Relax, Amy Giacomelli (above-bottom).
Very likely, the most important lesson to be learned from those artists who succeed in elevating over-used content to a higher plane is the ways in which they do so, as seen by the efforts of Jenny Muncaster and Amy Giacomelli (above). Both use repetition, yet each has their own style and manner of doing so. Both tend to be expressionist yet they have nothing in common as to appearance. In the grouping below, an unnamed artist uses the juxtaposing of his paintings of wine bottles and glasses with the actual objects, depending upon the art of showmanship and presentation to catch the tired eyes of the art connoisseur.

As with all art, it depends upon how you look at it.
Even a tired theme can be reinvigorated.
Though it may seem like something of an oxymoron, artists have also attempted to take the "still" out of still-life depictions of wine, essentially adding action to their work as seen in the two lively still-lifes below. A fairly loose handling of the paint helps in this regard too.

Both in the painting above and the one above-top a lively, approach to
the subject matter adds a whole new element to a very stale subject matter.
Hand-painted wine glasses, Teaberry Treasures
Although oils or acrylics have long been artists' favorite medium for painting wine, and most other still-lifes as well, simply changing to a more unconventional medium can likewise lift the content, be it red or white, out of the realm of the ordinary. An artist at "Teaberry Treasures" (left) doesn't paint pic-tures of wineglasses but the wineglasses themselves. There is a tremendous quantity of this type of art to be found so once more, the manner in which such work is handled by the artist becomes crit-ical in avoiding the mundane.

Wine and Grapes Oval
The art of stained glass lends itself quite naturally to still-life content. In fact, secular stained glass in the manner of Louis Tiffany very often featured decorative elements incorporating hanging grapes among its bordering vines. The oval item (below) has it all, grapes, the bottle, and the wineglass, yet rises above that which could be called tired or trite. Deborah Boyet uses the medium of watercolor to successfully eschew the ordinary with her Wine on the Vine (below). For those who may have missed it, the moral of this story is, if you're going to paint still-lifes of any kind, you need to go to what might be considered extreme measures in moving beyond a "safe" handling of content, especially when that content has an alcohol content over twelve percent.

Wine on the Vine, Deborah Boyet

If your vintage still-life begins to look like this,
it's time to give up on both the wine and the painting.


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