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Willem Kalf and the Sumptuous Still Life in the John G. Johnson Collection

November 28, 2008–June 5, 2010

John G. Johnson acquired many seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish still-life paintings, including three by Willem Kalf; an early kitchen scene and two of the later pronk, or sumptuous still lifes, for which Kalf is best known. Kalf's astonishing virtuosity is visible in his handling of optical effects and reflections, his limited use of brilliant color, and the range of textures he suggests. With their balance of shimmering opulence and somber restraint, Kalf's monumental compositions mark a high point in Dutch still life painting.

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The rise in popularity of the pronk still life in Holland reflected the growing power and wealth of the Dutch republic, the benefits of trade, as well as the influence of the richer Flemish still life painting tradition. Their groupings of spectacular objects and costly foods form a stark contrast to the earlier banket still lifes showing humble meals of local foods. Kalf's paintings are exhibited with other seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish still lifes from Johnson's collection that mark the trend towards opulence.

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Lloyd DeWitt • Associate Curator, John G. Johnson Collection

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