Stilleven met vogels
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In the painting 'Still life with birds', the Dutch artist Wim Schuhmacher depicted five different dead birds, from the top and clockwise: a red-legged partridge, a song thrush, female & male house sparrow and a male greenfinch. They are carefully displayed with two eggs and a twig on a wicker table covered with a cloth, a piece of paper and a draped piece of material. The whole scene is represented very realistically with great precision. The painting is a pale colour with the matt red of the claws of the partidge, the yellowgreen of the smallest bird and the pale green of the twig forming accents of colour in the predominantly grey still life. The background is also grey. The different shades of grey and the indistinct way in which they are painted give the background a rather indeterminate character.
Following a period in which his work was influenced by the early 20th-century movements such as Cubism and Expressionism, Schuhmacher adopted a more realistic style from 1925. However, he was not concerned with simply recording nature in an unconsidered way. He used nature as a starting point for something “higher” and was aiming for a sublime effect. In a number of his works, especially the landscapes, there is a strong emphasis on vertical and lofty forms, and consequently Schuhmacher’s compositions literally seem to ascend. From the second half of the 1920s, the colour grey played a decisive role in his work. For Schuhmacher, grey was the colour of elevated, unearthly silence. He used it in all sorts of shades to present his realistic, if rather pale representations. These works have a curious diffuse light, in which the light seems to shine from the things that are depicted, rather than on them.
Because of the unearthly atmosphere which is evoked, Schuhmacher’s work has been linked to Magical Realism. This movement is characterized by the doom-laden character of the scenes that are painted or on their transient nature. Schuhmacher’s work also contains repeated references to fragility and death in the form of butterflies, dead animals and skulls, but in addition he also painted objects which refer to hope and life such as the eggs and the twig in Still life with birds. The careful arrangement of the objects and the precision with which he depicted them, in combination with the curious grey light, can evoke both a sense of involvement and distance, a dreamy and a chilly sensation in the viewer. Schuhmacher said about this: “As far as this dreaminess and the cold is concerned… it just depends where the viewer places his own emphasis.”
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