Study in Grey


Emil Carlsen ( American, 1853 - 1932 )

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General Description

An American Impressionist painter who emigrated from Denmark in 1872, Emil Carlsen spent his career dedicated to painting still lifes and was often referred to as the "The American Chardin”, referencing Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, the 18th century French master. While his contemporaries found inspiration from developments in modern painting, Carlsen remained faithful to his established subject matter and method, modeling his still lifes after Chardin’s muted colors and velvety light. Study in Grey was painted after Carlsen's return to the east coast after a stint teaching in San Francisco. The painting displays a broad tonal range, which Carlsen strategically used to explore and contrast the many textures of his staged objects. The sheen of the black cauldron, for example, contrasts with the muddy, muted tone of the brass tea kettle. These close studies in tonal shift reflect the artist’s belief that inherent beauty remained independent of its subject matter.

Fun Facts

  • Emil Carlsen, like John Singer Sargent, was fascinated with the representation of variations of the color white. He often included white cloths, onions, and garlic in his still lifes in order to afford him an opportunity to depict these variations.

  • Emil Carlsen discussing still life paintings: "...the study of still life should be made interesting from the beginning; the objects selected for their beauty of line and color; and here let me advise the choice of whites and greys. Some of the best pictures of Chardin, the very greatest still life painter, are limited in their color schemes, but the colors are of the choicest quality."

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