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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