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“Kitchen Still Life with a Copper Cauldron, a Mortar and Pestle, a Leek, and a Gallon of Milk” (after Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin) (all illustrations by the author for Hyperallergic)

With a bit too much time on my hands and a subscription to Adobe Photoshop I have been playing with an idea: what will happen to traditional still life paintings when elements from contemporary life are grafted into them? Some of the answers — in visual form here — are strikingly strange and darkly funny.

Each image is accompanied with the name of the artist whose original painting has been used for my satirical purposes. I hope they will all forgive me from their graves.

“Still Life of a Rotisserie Chicken, a Ham and Olives on Pewter Plates with a Bread Roll, an Orange, Wineglasses and a Rose on a Wooden Table” (after Oslas Beer)

“Still Life with Cake and Red Bull” (after Raphaelle Peale)

“Still Life with Salmon and Doritos” (after Francisco Goya)

“Still Life with Oysters and Pepsi-Cola” (after Willem Claeszoon Heda)

“Butcher’s Stall with Mylar Cow Balloon and the Flight into Egypt” (after Pieter Aertsen)

“Vanitas Still Life With Skull and iPhone Clock” (after Pieter Claesz)

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John Seed

John Seed is a professor of art and art history at Mt. San Jacinto College in Southern California. Seed has written about art and artists for Arts of Asia, Art Ltd., Catamaran, Harvard Magazine, International Artist, The HuffingtonPost and...

12 replies on “Some Doritos with Your Goya? Old Master Still Lifes Get an Update”

  1. Isn’t there already more than enough visual garbage in the modern world? Do we really need exquisite older paintings to be dealt this sort of (mis)treatment? Can we not make our own “translations” from how they portrayed their physical world, how they used objects from their lives as metaphors for things like the passage of time? That’s a large part–for me–of the experience of looking at art: to think about and compare that artist’s version of human experience with my own. I don’t need mine stuck into the middle of theirs.

      1. ?? I do know Photoshop, have even used it a few thousand times, so I know that one doesn’t have to affect an original work when using it.

        1. Yes, that is obvious, I just wanted to make my point. Guadelupe, my intentions in making these are humorous. We all love and venerate wonderful master paintings like these, and that adds to their potential as humorous objects. Speaking for myself, the news offers so much pain and tragedy everyday that I have to find ways to make myself laugh. I share them hoping that you may too.

  2. Those are brilliant renderings of a type that remind us of our cultural differences, or shall I say “compromise” that allude to the kind of world we’ve created through technology and that allude to the implied damage we invoke? It also speaks of a lack of control in our lives, where all we can do is accept the truth. Interesting too is the idea of how technology makes a reviewer into an artist, where the “great” artists are consumed, appropriated, no longer relevant in creating the truth, they are removed from the medium in order to make the point: Our society no longer needs artists, the profession is akin to garbage disposal worker, or shall I say “sanitation engineer”? The truth itself is spun, reconstituted, like meat foam extruded through a tube and in reality no longer safe to eat.

    1. And Mr. Seed this comment is not intended to denounce your ability as an artist, although I do not know your work (other than what is posted here) or even if you are an artist, I was only interested in the idea of your role of critic, like a President instituting perpetual war or a manufacturer, or a manufacturer taking the copyright from an inventor just because they are reproducing whatever it is. These are only some of the issues you raise. I am sure there are more.

      1. Hi Tom, I don’t see these as works of art. They are mainly intended to make people laugh, and if underneath the laughter there is a chance to think about differences across time and culture, I’m all for it.

  3. Lighten up, guys. Comments and jokes neither enhance nor detract from true works of art. Tthey either add to their meaning or fade into irrelevance. The works stand on their own.

    1. I have the highest respect for the works of art that I “mashed up” here, and in fact part of what I want these satirical insertions to do is to keep us awake to how great they remain.

  4. These brought a chuckle to a dank rainy post-holiday-weekend Monday afternoon. And the Vanitas one even packs a little appropriate punch. Thank you!

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