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Art Pick of the Week: Still Life (Vanitas)

June 10th, 2019

Hendrick Andriessen. Still Life (Vanitas), c. 1637. Oil on panel,   49.3 x 64.2 cm. Gift of Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, 1995. © Art Gallery of Ontario 95/137

With your new AGO Annual Pass all cued up on your phone, we’re expecting to see a lot more of you! And to help make sure you get something new out of each visit, we picked some of our favourite works in the AGO Collection for you to spend some time with.

This week we recommend you check out artist Hendrick Andriessen’s Still Life (Vanitas) on Level 1 inthe E.R. Wood Gallery (Gallery 121). The beautifully painted details of this oil painting still life were created in a type of painting genre called vanitas.

What is a vanitas? The vanitas still life grew out of the artistic tradition known as memento mori. Both subjects remind the viewer of the shortness and fragility of life and include symbols such as skulls and extinguished candles. As in the AGO painting, vanitas still life paintings typically include hourglasses, tobacco and books that remind us of the brevity of worldly pleasures.

The incredible detail captured in this painting is striking. Look closely at the luminously painted objects and consider their deeper philosophical meaning. From symbols of learning to symbols of mortality, there is much to see in Andriessen’s work.

Stay tuned each week for a new Art Pick.

Access to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO Members,  AGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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