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Banquet in Silence by Marsden Hartley
Banquet in Silence by Marsden Hartley

Banquet in Silence, 1935

Marsden Hartley

You can’t help feeling a little bit sorry for the fish on this plate, so perfectly arranged in their bed of potatoes, lifeless and ready to be served up for dinner. Despite the chunky shapes and heavy paint, this is a closely observed still life, but its realistic elements are simplified into a forceful pattern. The painting combines realistic subject matter with abstracted qualities: the plate seems to float on its blue background. A critic at the time wrote that “mournfulness informs many of Hartley’s pictures,” and this banquet does seem to exude a baleful melancholy.

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