Still Life – A woman’s World?

Photograph by Ioanna Ralli

“When the Academy of Fine Art was found in France in the 17th century, a hierarchy of subject matter was established. Historical themes – along with mythological and allegorical ones- were placed at the very top. Second place was taken by portraiture. After that came everyday scenes, then landscapes, animals and lastly and very undervalued, came still life.

Over the course of their entire history, still life was considered an appropriate subject matter for women. In many countries, women excelled especially in painting flowers.

Is that pure coincidence?”

Today I read a small introduction text in Ioanna Ralli’s latest catalogue – book from her last exhibition STILL LIFE.

This book has sat on my shelves for about a year now. I must tell you that I really liked this exhibition and its photographs hold a very special attraction for me. Therefore I have to admit that although I have often taken the book off my library and looked at the pictures, I have never up to today read the intro. I really prefer images to words – coming from a blogger that sounds weird – and I rarely read all the “blubbering”. For me art is supposed to do the talking, not the artist or the critic with words. Yet I urge you to visit Ioanna’s site and read that intro because it contains a lot of interesting things that we can ponder upon.

The paragraph above resonated with a truth that has bothered me for a long long time.

It is true that still life is the child of a lesser God in the eyes of most artists and critics let alone art dealers.  It is also known, that women have always been drawn to still life and have excelled in every way to  portray their surroundings. It must have been only natural for women of the 17th century to paint their household artifacts, since at the time women were not supposed to do a lot of things that men could do, thus it was easier to depict things lying around their houses than paint a nude or go to the brothels and cabarets. Yet to this day we continue to see an ongoing relationship between women painters and still life (especially flowers) that has nothing to do with society’s moral – ethic values and evolution.

What is nagging me though is whether we women like flowers because there comes a time in our lives when we have to spend more time in our homes due to children and /or house chores or if there is a more important connection with mother Earth – Gaia?  Could creating beautiful images of flowers, mother nature’s most beautiful children, be a need to feel connected, part of a whole or plain and simple cradled in the arms of our mother, the most secure of all feelings humans experience at the start of their lives.

What do You Think? I would love to read your comments about our excellence in creating flower still life images.