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Introduction to the Exhibition- "Elegance and Refinement: The Still-Life Paintings of Willem van Aelst"

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, and Melanie Gifford, research conservator, National Gallery of Art. Few artists were more skilled than Willem van Aelst (1627-1683) at depicting luscious fruits, luxurious fabrics, and spoils of the hunt. His renowned still lifes are remarkable for their fine finish, carefully balanced composition, jewel-toned palette, and elegant subject matter. Bringing together 28 of these sumptuous paintings and his only known drawing, this exhibition- the first devoted solely to this artist- celebrates the most technically brilliant Dutch still-life painter of his time. It is also accompanied by the first comprehensive publication on his work. In this opening day lecture, curator Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. discusses van Aelst's life and talent, including his impact on late-17th-century still-life painting. Conservator Melanie Gifford discusses the technical research that revealed how van Aelst created his luxurious illusions. Elegance and Refinement: The Still-Life Paintings of Willem van Aelst is on view at the National Gallery of Art from June 24 to October 14, 2012.