Our 2020/2021 Student Placements choose their Collection Favourites
As part of our exhibition 'Collection Favourites' we asked our curator, trustees and student placements to let us know which artworks were their favourites and why. Here we share the favourites of our two 2020/2021 student placements. As part of their degree University of Oxford History of Art undergraduate students complete a student placement at a gallery or museum in Oxford, giving them invaluable insight into the museum sector.
Duncan Grant, Still Life, c.1950
Grant’s 1950 oil painting is a vibrant and expressive depiction of a still life scene. It seems to show a reflective vase, in which there is foliage of some kind, as well as what appears to be a large bunch of grapes. To the left of the vase there is a pear. Despite this comparatively sparse array of objects, the composition is vibrant and lively, as the foliage casts a variety of shadows on the walls and table. I found myself drawn to this piece, in part, because of the intensity of its colour and the expressiveness of the brushstrokes. The painting is very warm in tone, with red and orange forming the predominate colours. Grant also adds areas of green to the shadows, as well as, most notably, to the grapes at the centre of the composition. Red and green are complimentary, meaning that they both enhance each other, and add vibrancy and activity to the painting as a whole. This vibrancy is also achieved through Grant’s variety of brushstrokes. While the marks are mainly large and expressive, they become much more delicate and detailed on the grapes, as well as in some areas of shadow. This variety creates a lively and energetic atmosphere.
Sarah Crozier, Passing Pembroke on the way home from Sainsburys, 1996
This piece is visually uncomplicated, tracing the outline of two fairly conventional looking figures going about their daily business. The square box outlining the scene detaches the viewer from the scene and separates them from the moment being documented. Within this framing, there is a clear and realistic sense of space despite the minimalism of the painting. The viewer sees two figures, likely a man and woman, standing one in front of another, though they do not appear to interact. Crozier has used block colours to give the impression of light and shadow, though the actual figures themselves are indistinct and could blend into any crowd. The lack of specificity in depicting the individuals means that the piece works as one, there is no key focal point, but rather I felt that the focus was on the moment itself. The composition of the painting works with the title: both draw the viewer to the brief ‘passing’ moment they have come across, rather than to any deeper contemplation of the figures making up the moment.
This artwork, depicting a menial weekly chore, initially stood out to me as something timeless in its simplicity. I felt that the style of the piece really reflected the mood of the scene it was representing, and this made it all the more relatable to any audience. The indistinct facial features of the figure on the left contribute to a sense of anonymity in the piece; the vague eyes, nose and mouth could belong to anyone, and I thought this was reflective of the transience of the moment captured and the amount of people passing Pembroke after their Sainsburys’s shop. Although it may sound overly analytical, I think this image particularly appealed to me because in the same way as this artist, during lockdown, I found myself focusing on and analysing average daily events such as this in much more detail.