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Dayton Art Institute features contemporary still-life paintings of Isabella Kirkland
Kirkland’s portraits of flora and fauna present a dazzling array of detail that straddles art history, scientific illustration and natural history.

DAYTON, OH.- The Dayton Art Institute’s first special exhibition of 2014 features the contemporary still-life paintings of Isabella Kirkland.

Rendered in the crystalline clarity of 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings, Kirkland’s portraits of flora and fauna present a dazzling array of detail that straddles art history, scientific illustration and natural history. Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life is on view February 22 – May 18 at the museum.

“Shown together for the first time, the works in Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life are sure to be of interest to lovers of art as well as scientific study,” says The DAI’s Director and CEO Michael R. Roediger. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to bring this timely exhibition to Dayton.”

Still-life painting first flourished in the Netherlands during the early 1600s, although German and French painters were also early participants in the development, and less continuous traditions of Italian and Spanish still-life painting date from the same period. Many of the objects depicted in these early works remind the viewer of an edifying concept, such as worldly vanity or temperance. Moralizing meanings were also common in still-life paintings of the 17th century.

Floral still lifes were especially prominent in the early 1600s, and their highly refined execution, subjects and symbolism were addressed to a cultivated audience. Painters from this period, such as Jan Fyt and Roelandt Savery, often referred to herbals and other botanical texts when composing “bouquets,” which typically combined flowers from different countries, and even different continents, in one vase and at one moment of blooming. For many courtly collectors and wealthy merchants, a flower picture was part of a private domain that included a garden with rare specimens, colored drawings or watercolors of rare tulips and other unusual flowers, and a small library of botanical books and prints.

“Building on this tradition, contemporary artist Isabella Kirkland composes her own unique 21st-century ‘bouquets’ that deliver an arresting and timely narrative about the degradation and homogenization of our own environment,” says The Dayton Art Institute’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Dr. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, who organized and curated the exhibition.

Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life brings together more than 50 of Kirkland’s works, as well as a host of preparatory drawings and studies in a variety of media. With their luscious colors and high-gloss finishes, some of which took more than a year to create, these elaborate paintings provide a bridge between science and the humanities in brilliant color.
In conjunction with Isabella Kirkland: Stilled Life, The Dayton Art Institute presents In Bloom: Selections from the Collection of The Dayton Art Institute. The exhibition includes nearly 20 works from The DAI’s permanent collection, ranging from the 17th through the 21st centuries. From floral still lifes to garden delights, it presents some of the museum’s finest examples, as well as some lesser-known works, to highlight and explore this popular genre.

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