Still Life with Wild Strawberries

Adriaen Coorte, 1705
Mauritshuis, The Hague

While many seventeenth-century Dutch still life painters celebrated the Republic’s prosperity with exuberant explorations of the bounties of nature and human creation, Adriaen Coorte’s modest still life compositions contain only the bare essentials. Whether nuts, berries, white asparagus, medlars, seashells, or grapes, he carefully positioned his selected objects before a dark background and bathed them in a clear, even light, encouraging appreciation of each object’s unique characteristics.

The minimalism of Coorte’s compositions probably contributed to the artist’s near-complete obscurity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and it was not until the 1950s that his work began to be appreciated anew. Still Life with Wild Strawberries is one of his simplest compositions and one of his finest. A handful of the succulent berries – some still attached to their stems – are heaped at the corner of a stone ledge. Stuck amidst the berries is a stem plucked from the plant itself, its single white blossom illuminated by the shaft of light that also casts a gentle shimmer across the dark background. Coorte carefully balanced soft, organic shapes and hard, crafted ones, horizontal and vertical, light and dark, to create an image as cool and refreshing as the berries themselves.

Marjorie E. Wieseman, Curator and Head of the Department of Northern European Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

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Coorte's Still Life in street view

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Ode to Coorte

Exhibition at the Mauritshuis in 2007

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