Things Wondrous & Humble

Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery

Still life paintings speak volumes about identity, history, and culture. Drawn primarily from the Reynolda House collection accompanied by key loans from museums and private collections throughout the state, this exhibition encompasses a broad variety of subjects and styles, reflecting both traditional and modern approaches to the genre. Some examples address the American penchant for materialism—sumptuous flowers, baubles, and crystal on a grand scale. In several cases, artists include still life vignettes in portraits or landscape paintings in order to amplify meaning or advance the narrative. Other works demonstrate the artist experimenting with basic fundamentals of line, color, and perspective. In many instances, the objects included have symbolic significance. Skulls and decaying fruit, for example, allude to the brevity of life, a theme traditionally called “vanitas.” The depiction of objects held by people relates to the art historical tradition of the attribute—an object that identifies the figure’s role as carpenter, artist, or preacher. Visually compelling and rich with meaning, the paintings and decorative arts objects in the exhibition invite viewers to discover their secrets.