Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-1779)

Shown: Glass of Water and Coffee Pot (1760)

“…As Brecht says: “Frequently altered, they improve their appearance, growing enjoyable/Because often enjoyed.” How easily an artist could have made the mouths of glass and pot into sharp, perfect ellipses. Chardin is careful not to, and without precisely adding a chip or graze, he shows that these vessels have been around, bumping and scraping against other things in the sink or cupboard. The glazed terracotta pot has blackened over the years. Even the water in the glass looks old, left out overnight, long standing with a bloom of dust.

The things feel handled, because of the way they have been handled by the paintbrush in the artist’s hand, not smartening them up but roughening them up and wearing them down as it paints them. Painting can make the world new and perfect, it can issue ideal forms that deny the fate of matter. This is one of the miracles of the art. (Computer generated animation offers the same delightful fantasy, a world with flawless skin.) But painting is also expert in entropy. It speaks on both sides in the great debate.”

Tom Lubbock (1958-2011), writing in The Independent 17/2/2006

“….I remembered his lamp with the base designed to look like a pencil, the light it shed on the night table, and the glass of water that stood underneath it – flanked on the left by his wristwatch. I had brought hundreds of glasses of water to Matt’s bedside, and after his death I had drunk many more, since I always kept a glass beside me at night. A real glass of water had not once reminded me of my son, but the image of a glass of water rendered 230 years earlier had catapulted me suddenly and irrevocably into the painful awareness that I was still alive.”

Hustvedt, S: What I Loved (2003)

“….The most sensuous of artists, Chardin evokes in his still lifes the senses of taste, sight, and touch.

But the moral heart of his work lies in his ability to paint silence. He allows us the freedom to invest the objects he depicts with our own thoughts and feelings, not his. It is as though each thing he paints is permitted to fulfil its own latent potential to be beautiful. In his genre subjects, as in his still lifes, what appears to be empty is shown to be full and what looks like nothing turns out to be everything.”

Richard Dorment, writing in The Telegraph 8/3/2000

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