Artwork of the Week: de Ring’s Still-Life with Lobster

I originally studied this piece in an Art History class my freshman year. The level of detail and beautiful lighting initially grabbed my attention, but when I looked further, I found the work even more interesting. It is rich with symbolism of wealth, mortality, and sensuality.Still-Life with Lobster

Pieter de Ring (Dutch, ca. 1615-1660)
Still-Life with Lobster, ca. 1650
Oil on canvas.
IU Art Museum 73.22

This Dutch still-life, created circa 1650, illustrates an  abundance of food and fine dishware that screams wealth. While the plums and cherries are not uncommon to this area, the grapes, melons, oranges would have been imported making them less affordable. The seafood was much more abundant in this area at the time, and therefore not a luxury like it is today. The fine cloths, ornate glass, and imported Chinese chafing dish, and the ring next to the oranges are all luxuries the wealthy might own.

However ornate, the overripe, almost spoiled food stresses the immediacy of which this food needs to be eaten. At first glance this food looks magnificent. It appears luscious and juicy. Look closer, and you see the age of the oranges, the mold on the lobster, and the brown-grey color of the plums. This combined with the very subtle African Grey parrot picking at cherries in the shadows suggests mortality and the relative importance of certain luxuries, which is a theme often portrayed in vanitas paintings. Overall, I see the almost-spoiled food and dark color palette along with the parrot as a mockery about the relative importance of these luxuries in life. The sliced melon and oysters could also indicate a sensual theme.

I find this painting alluring and interesting. It is hauntingly beautiful at first glance and then continues to hold my attention when I focus in on the details and rich symbolism of the work. Whenever I visit the gallery I spend time sitting in front of this work studying its intricate detail and almost always find something I didn’t notice before. Works like this one are special to me, because I every time I study it closely I can find something new. There is so much to look at and analyze in this painting, which constantly reminds me why I love to study and learn about art.

Lost Record

Transferring as a new student to Indiana University this summer, I was ready to jump in and get involved with the Bloomington community.  As an arts management major with a background in studio art, my first stop was the Indiana University Art Museum. Taking a look through all of the galleries I found myself clinging to a piece by Kay Sage in the Gallery of the Art of the Western World on the first floor.

Kay Sage (American, 1898–1963)
Lost Record,1940
Oil on canvas.
IU Art Museum 64.73

This Surrealist oil painting titled “Lost Record” (1940) seemed tiny compared to the larger works that took over entire walls in the gallery.  However, though small in size with dimensions of only 36 x 27 ¾ inches, one cannot help but be drawn in by the power of Sage’s eerie, dream-like landscape.  A single dying tree is the only sign of life in an otherwise barren landscape with two ambiguous rock formations and one must ask “who is this artist?”  Intrigued, I decided to do some more research on the artist:

Kay Sage never stayed in one place for too long; her constant displacement started at a young age due to her parents’ divorce and her aversion to a formal education.  However, Sage found a temporary home and inspiration in Paris in 1938 where she joined other artists in the Surrealist movement.  Andre Breton, the group’s leader, officially accepted her as a Surrealist artist soon after; Sage was one of only a few female artists who were formally designated as part of this artistic movement. Though Sage drew inspiration from her Surrealist counterparts such as Giorgio de Chirico and Yves Tanguy (whom later became her husband in 1940), “Sage’s mature vocabulary of architectural scaffolding set in barren landscapes infused with a disquiet melancholy is intensely personal and entirely her own” (Celia Gant Edict Of Women Artists, Vol. 2).  Unlike her contemporaries, Sage utilized muted colors, architectural forms, and metaphysically directly linking her works with personal suffering of inner loneliness and disillusionment with society, many pieces foreshadowing her suicide in 1963.


Celia Gant Edict Of Women Artists, Vol. 2 (via Jenny McComas)


Jazz in July with the Andy Cobine Trio

Andy Cobine TrioFriday marked the start of the art museum’s Jazz in July event. Every Friday in July
there will be live jazz music on the Sculpture Terrace from 6:00–8:00 p.m. The Andy
Cobine Trio kicked off the event with a great set.

There was a sizable crowd despite the 100+ degree heat, showing this town’s
incredible dedication to the yearly concert series. As a museum intern, I found the
level of detail that went into planning the event incredible. Acquiring sponsorships,
food, drink, and even the music required weeks of planning and it came together all
in a matter of hours as music-lovers started pouring in.

Pizza X, Oliver Winery and Bloomington Brewing Company

There was beer, wine, gelato, and pizza available from Bloomington Brewing
Company, Oliver Winery, Grazie Italian Eatery, and Pizza X for visitors to enjoy
while listening to the relaxing music. As the event photographer, I noticed
a lot of dedicated jazz fans who enjoyed cocktails, pizza, and ice cream during the
event. These vendors added to the social and relaxed atmosphere of the event.

It’ll be rare after I move from Bloomington to get the opportunity to attend such a
fun, interesting concert for free. Although there are very few of us here during the
summertime, I would have guessed that more students would jump at the chance
to go to a free concert right on campus, but the event hosted mainly Bloomington

Andy Cobine Trio

It was such a great event, and it was really nice to see how many Bloomington
residents came out to see the concert. It really speaks to the quality of the museum
and its events when Bloomington residents show so much support for the
University’s art museum.

S. A.