Saturday in the Museum with Anne

Image: Anne Vallayer-Coster, “Basket of Plums” (1769). Oil on canvas.

This week’s virtual trip to the world of art takes us to the Cleveland Museum of Art for another in our series on still-life painting.  This Basket of Plums is from the 18th-century French painter Anne Vallayer-Coster.

The museum site provides this description:

“During the later part of the 1700s, fruit still lifes were extremely popular, and a basket of plums was a common motif. In Vallayer’s painting the details, especially the plums and the basket, emerge from deep shadows. The colors are vivid reds and violets and a sense of immediacy is invoked by the growing moss, the cakes in their crisp papers, and the glass of water with its sparkling highlights and reflections.”

According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts profile Vallayer-Coster was born into a creative family in 1744.  Her father was a goldsmith and her mother was a painter of miniatures.

“At the age of 26, Vallayer-Coster was elected into the Académie Royale by a unanimous vote, a remarkable sign of approval as only four women artists were admitted to the Académie at a time. She exhibited in the Salon regularly from 1771 until 1817, showing still-life paintings of bowls of fruit, dead game, shells, and flowers.

“In 1780 she was named Painter to Queen Marie Antoinette. She continued painting a broad range of subjects and themes including animals, trompe-l’oeil bas reliefs, miniatures, and full-sized portraits, which mirrored the opulence of French aristocracy before the Revolution.”

The fall of the monarch left her without her primary sponsor and her career suffered, though he continued to paint and exhibit in the Salon.  She died in 1818.


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