Leslie Parke: Into the River

Leslie Parke, "The Party", 29 1/2 inches x 43 inches, oil on linen, 2010

I come from a family that had copious amounts of china.  There was informal china and formal china, china for the beach house, salad plates, dessert plates, bread plates, luncheon plates and dinner plates. Cups with two handles for consume and cups with one handle for coffee, and demi-tasse cups and on and on. Despite having china for every possible occasion or combination of food, it was almost never used. It was considered too precious and belonging to someone else — as much of it was inherited.

Leslie Parke, "Tumble", 24 inches x 24 inches, oil on linen, 2010

Leslie Parke, “Tumble”, 24 inches x 24 inches, oil on linen, 2010

In an effort to counter act that, at least once a year I pull out all the china and use it for a big party. In this case, I tend to try to make the food match the china, rather than visa verse. I have not mastered a tomato aspic, although the china is screaming out for it. One year, after the party and before I put away the dishes I decided to pile the plates on a table and make a still life out of it. I had been painting piled up newspapers and recycled cans, this just seemed to be one more thing I could pile up. And, in deed, I didn’t stop with the plates, but also added crystal.

Besides relating to the paintings of recycled materials that I was doing, I felt that they also related to my landscapes which are all about light, reflection, transparency and translucency.  To make the connection more evident, I put the china into the river.  You may notice the leaves floating over the dishes.

Leslie Parke, "China in the River", 28 inches x 20 inches, oil on linen

Leslie Parke, “China in the River”, 28 inches x 20 inches, oil on linen

Leslie Parke, “China in the River”, 28 inches x 20 inches, oil on linen

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Size matters

Many years ago, when I was contemplating doing some still lifes, I bought a book published by Abrams called Still Life: A History. In it I found a still life by the minor Impressionist artist, Giovanni Boldini (Ferrara, 1842 – Paris, 1931), called Corner of the Painter’s Table, (oil on canvas, 1880). The dimensions of this painting seemed odd to me: 47 1/4 inches by 15 1/4 inches [120 x 38.5 cm]. I wondered if Boldini chose to work in this format because of the influence of Japonisme on painting at the time.

Giovanni Boldini, "Corner of Painter's Table", oil on canvas, 1890. Ferrara, Museo Giovanni Boldini.
Giovanni Boldini, “Corner of Painter’s Table”, oil on canvas, 1890. Ferrara, Museo Giovanni Boldini.

I loved everything about this painting; the sweeping diagonal, the muted colors, the linen, porcelain, glass  and silver,  but I especially loved the format and I immediately set out to experiment with this format on my own.

My first version kept the diagonal, the linen, glass and silver.

Leslie Parke, "Sugar Bowl", oil on linen, 1999.

My second version added Brush Stoke China  and a Rene Lalique vase into the mix.


Leslie Parke, “Still Life with Onions”, oil on linen, 1999. Private Collection.

I have continued to play with this format over the years.

Leslie Parke, "Koi Fish Forth", oil on linen, 2006. Collection of Fran and Jeff Goldstone.
Leslie Parke, “Koi Forth”, oil on linen, 2006. Collection of Fran and Jeff Goldstone.

Then, while doing some research on Monet, I came across this:


Claude Monet, “White Poppy”, 128.5 x 37.0 cm, oil on canvas, 1883. Private Collection, Japan.

While not exactly the 120 x 38.5 cm of the Boldini, clearly the proportions were the same. What I found next answered all:


Claude Monet, “The Door Panels of Durand-Ruel’s Drawing Room”

As the story goes, Monet was commissioned to do the panels for several doors in Durand-Ruel’s drawing room on the Rue de Rome in Paris in 1882, when Monet was still living in Poissy. The commission dragged on as Monet moved first to Giverny and then went on a painting trip to Bordighera, which is why two Mediterranean subjects were added to the collection. These were painted on canvas that were then stretched on thin stretchers that could be installed on the doors.


Claude Monet, “Six Panels, Decoration for door A”.

It seems highly likely to me that the Boldini was painted with a similar installation in mind.

Books Mentioned:

Still Life: A History

Monet: Catalogue Raisonne

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