Chardin: Still Life with Jar of Olives

Chardin: Still Life with Jar of Olives

Diderot on Chardin's Still-Life with Jar of Olives (From the Salon of 1765):

"In order to look at other people's pictures, I feel as though I need different eyes; but to look at Chardin's, I need only keep the ones nature gave me and use them properly. ...

That porcelain vase really is made of porcelain; those olives really are seen through the water they are floating in; you could simply take those biscuits and eat them; peel that fruit; and cut a piece of that pie.

This is the man who really understands the harmony of colours and reflections. O Chardin, it's not white, red, or black pigments that you grind on your palette but rather the very substance of objects; it's real air and light that you take onto the tip of your brush and transfer onto the canvas. ...

It's magic, one can't understand how it's done: thicks layers of colour, applied one on top of the other, each one filtering through from underneath to create the effect. At times, it looks as though the canvas has mistled over from someone breathing on it; at others, as though a thin film of water has landed on it. Rubens, Berghem, Greuze and Loutherbourg could explain this technique better than I; they would all describe the effect as you see it.

They say that when Greuze came to the Salon and saw the Chardin I've just described, he looked at it and gave a deep sigh. This brief praise is more valuable than mine.

Who will reward Chardin's paintings when this rare man is gone? You should also know that the artist is a man of sound judgement and can talk wonderfully about his art."


Kant on Chardin's Still-Life with Jar of Olives:

Chardin's Still Life does not seem to invoke much pleasure by looking at it. If it does, I suspect it is only out of desire, or maybe even appetite for the food disposed on the table, and then it is not what I call "disinterrested pleasure." The painting does not raise sensations except those maybe of approval of the artist's technique, in which case, the subject of the painting is not the object of those emotions. I thus conclude that Chardin's work may not be characterized as beautiful

The painting is devoid of meaning: it is only made to be a faithful representation of ordinary objects. There is no life in it. The painter has achieved an impressive level of realism yet it seems to have been his sole goal. The painting is thereofre finite. Once we have observed closely the details of the still-life, we cannot get anything else out of it. Chardin's still life does not have the ability in itself to generate emotions and meaning.

Chardin: Still Life with Jar of Olives