Saturday, February 18, 2017
On facebook, those interested in art tag other artists and art aficionados to research and post images and information about certain artists. Tom Christenson, who used to be in charge of publications for the Asian, a well known author and a man of many talents, tagged me to write about Zubaran ( November 7, 1598 – August 27, 1664). He is known primarily for his religious paintings but it was this still life that captured my attention..
I remember when I saw "Still Life with Lemons" at the Norton Simon Museum. Until that time, Zubaran was just a name to me. But the painting's still, powerful beauty drew me in and I sat in front of it for quite some time, in a meditative state. The painting had been cleaned by the experts at the Getty and was being displayed, before going on tour.
The painting was buried under many layers of varnish and very discolored," says Mark Leonard, head of paintings conservation at the Getty, who spent a couple of weeks studying and cleaning the Zurbaran, removing paint applied by restorers long ago and filling in lost flakes of pigment. "With each successive revarnishing, corrections were made of existing retouches," he says. "When you do that, the retouched areas grow. What starts out as a tiny hole becomes a big blob. That, combined with the general discoloration of the surface, was really suffocating the picture." (Culture Monster, 2008)
I am not particularly religious and certainly not religious in the 17th century Spanish Catholic sense but Zubaran's handling of the dark areas of a painting brings a haunting spiritual sense to the best of his work.