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17 Nov 2011

'Of Beauty and Death' at Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe

Jan Weenix, The white peacock, 1693 © Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

Of Beauty and Death. Animal Still Lifes from the Renaissance to Modernism
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe


Duration of the exhibition:
19 Nov 2011 - 19 Feb 2012
Fri 18 November 2011, 19 h
Opening hours:
Tue-Fri 10 - 17 h; Sat, Sun & public holidays: 10 - 18 h; 24 + 31 December 2011 & 16 February 2012: closed; 1 January 2012: 13 - 18 h


0049 721 926-3359
0049 721 926-6788

Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
Hans-Thoma-Str. 2-6
76133 Karlsruhe

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Of Beauty and Death
Animal Still Lifes from the Renaissance to Modernism

Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe / main building
19 November 2011 — 19 February 2012

On 19 November, the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe will unveil a new major exhibition that will, for the first time ever, cast the spotlight on the rich history of the genre of the animal still life, spanning from the 16th to the 20th century. Over 120 paintings, watercolours and reliefs by such famous artists as Dürer, Rubens, Weenix, Chardin, Goya, Manet, Ensor, Kokoschka and Beckmann form a testimony of the subject's importance. Besides works from our own collection, around 90 exquisite loans from renowned museums in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Vienna and Zurich provide insights into this fascinating pictorial world.

In its conception, the exhibition is based on the Kunsthalle's own collection—a collection rich in animal paintings that dates back to the margraves and grand dukes of Baden, and which features works by Jan Fyt, Willem van Aelst, Jan Weenix, Nicolas de Largillierre, Jean Siméon Chardin and others. These works can now be viewed in a wider context thanks to the many loaned works also on display. The catalogue contains scholarly commentaries to all exhibits and sheds light on their art historical and cultural contexts.

The exhibition not only illustrates how the function and visual symbolism of the animal still life changed over the course of centuries, but also shows how the artists' perception of the recurring motifs changed too. Alongside the enormous range in styles in their compositions, the images themselves are expressions of widely differing things: at once a symbol of aristocratic hunting pleasure, metaphors for human suffering and an expression of sensual experience.

Beyond their possible meanings, the genre of the animal still life presented artists of all epochs with a challenge of skill. The genre demanded painterly virtuosity, irrespective of whether they used the means of naturalistic optical illusion or free expression. Only by uniting the pictures from various epochs under one roof do the painterly affinities between the works become evident here today.

Curators of the exhibition: Holger Jacob-Friesen, Markus Lörz

To accompany the exhibition a comprehensive catalogue is available, published by Kehrer Verlag, containing text contributions from Raphaël Abrille, Holger Jacob-Friesen, Markus Lörz, Fred G. Meijer, Ellen Spickernagel, Beate Steinhauser and Barbara Welzel.