Still Life with Beef, Bowl of Ham and Vegetables, and Receptacles

Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 - 1780)
Still Life with Beef, Bowl of Ham and Vegetables, and Receptacles, c. 1772
oil on canvas. Private collection.

Self portrait

Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 - 1780)
Self portrait

Still Life with melons and pears

Luis Meléndez (Spanish, 1715 - 1780)
Still Life with melons and pears

Luis Meléndez (1715-1780) at the National Gallery of Washington


Delights of the Spanish table depicted by 18th-century painter Luis Meléndez (1715-1780) will be presented to American audiences for the first time in nearly 25 years at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, May 17 through August 23, 2009

In a rare opportunity to explore the artist’s working method, Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life will showcase 31 paintings, some of which have never been exhibited publicly, and nine examples of 18th-century kitchenware similar to those used as studio props by Meléndez.

"The greatest still-life painter of 18th-century Spain, Luis Meléndez had an extraordinary talent for rendering everyday objects with convincing detail, marvelous effects of color and light, and subtle variations in texture," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are grateful to the museums and private collectors who graciously agreed to share their paintings, some for the first time."

Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the exhibition will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on view September 23, 2009, through January 3, 2010, and to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on view February 1 through May 9, 2010. Fourteen of Meléndez’s still-life paintings now in American collections will be shown with 17 relevant works by him from collections abroad, exploring the artist’s creative process and celebrating his compelling artistic achievements. Loans of paintings come from major museums such as the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museé du Louvre, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as from private lenders, such as Teresa Heinz and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Saunders III.

Paintings, which will be loosely grouped by subject, include nine still lifes from the royal commission and the elegant Self-Portrait (1746) painted while the artist was a student at the academy. The first of his characteristic vertical-format compositions, Still Life with Small Pears, Bread, White Pitcher, Glass Bottle, and Earthenware Bowl (1760), illustrates Meléndez's typical method of painting from foreground to background.

Meléndez often created compositions based on meals served at a particular time of year or according to the religious calendar. He presented the elements of a meatless Lenten meal in Still Life with Cauliflower and Basket of Fish, Eggs, and Leeks (c. 1770), for instance, and the ingredients for a traditional winter dish in Still Life with Bread, Oranges, Garlic, Condiments, and Kitchen Utensils (1772).


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