Rendered in the crystalline clarity of 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings, Kirkland’s portraits of flora and fauna present a dazzling array of detail that straddles art history, scientific illustration and natural history. Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life will be on view February 22 – May 18 at the museum.
“Shown together for the first time, the works in Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life are sure to be of interest to lovers of art as well as scientific study,” says The DAI’s Director and CEO Michael R. Roediger. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to bring this timely exhibition to Dayton.” The special exhibition is made possible by support from Patron Sponsor DP&L Foundation, and Supporting Sponsors Energy Optimizers, USA, The Miami Valley School, Miller-Valentine Group, Perfection Group, Square One Salon and Spa, and Tridec Technologies, LLC.
Still-life painting first flourished in the Netherlands during the early 1600s, although German and French painters were also early participants in the development, and less continuous traditions of Italian and Spanish still-life painting date from the same period. Many of the objects depicted in these early works remind the viewer of an edifying concept, such as worldly vanity or temperance. Moralizing meanings were also common in still-life paintings of the 17th century. Floral still lifes were especially prominent in the early 1600s, and their highly refined execution, subjects and symbolism were addressed to a cultivated audience. Painters from this period, such as Jan Fyt and Roelandt Savery, often referred to herbals and other botanical texts when composing “bouquets,” which typically combined flowers from different countries, and even different continents, in one vase and at one moment of blooming. For many courtly collectors and wealthy merchants, a flower picture was part of a private domain that included a garden with rare specimens, colored drawings or watercolors of rare tulips and other unusual flowers, and a small library of botanical books and prints. “Building on this tradition, contemporary artist Isabella Kirkland composes her own unique 21st-century ‘bouquets’ that deliver an arresting and timely narrative about the degradation and homogenization of our own environment,” says The Dayton Art Institute’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Dr. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, who organized and curated the exhibition.
Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life brings together more than 50 of Kirkland’s works, as well as a host of preparatory drawings and studies in a variety of media. With their luscious colors and high-gloss finishes, some of which took more than a year to create, these elaborate paintings provide a bridge between science and the humanities in brilliant color.
In conjunction with Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life, The Dayton Art Institute will present In Bloom: Selections from the Collection of The Dayton Art Institute. The exhibition includes nearly 20 works from The DAI’s permanent collection, ranging from the 17th through the 21st centuries. From floral still lifes to garden delights, it will present some of the museum’s finest examples, as well as some lesser-known works, to highlight and explore this popular genre.
A companion Lecture Series will examine the fascinating overlap of science, history and art. The speakers will discuss and consider evolving ideas about art and nature, in response to Isabella Kirkland’s remarkable paintings that document and comment on species loss and environmental change. Scheduled talks include an Artist Lecture by Isabella Kirkland on February 20 at 6:30 p.m., Dutch Still-Life Painting of the Golden Age on March 1 at 3 p.m., Isabella Kirkland: Transforming Perception on March 15 at 3 p.m., Gathering Nature in a Time of Extinction: Isabella Kirkland’s Ecological Art on April 12 at 3 p.m., and Bio-Diversity and Isabella Kirkland on April 26 at 3 p.m.
The Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life Lecture Series is free to students and museum members, and included in museum or special exhibition admission for non-members. All lectures will be held in the museum’s NCR Renaissance Auditorium, with the exception of Bio-Diversity and Isabella Kirkland on April 26, which will be held at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. The Stilled Life Lecture Series is supported by a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council.
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