There's still some life to it

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The Independent Culture
There's still some life to it

An odd thing, the still life painting. An impossibly titled anomaly, frequently morbid and mundane, it is apparently lacking in narrative, characterisation or anything else we might expect from painterly verisimilitude. Or so you might think before visiting the National Gallery's new display "Spanish Still Life from Velazquez to Goya", which opens this week. The cynic who dismisses still life painting as merely an opportunistic display of artistic virtuosity is confounded by its appeal to such unexpected enthusiasts as the two artists of the show's title. In the hands of such painters as Velazquez, still life is imbued with a unique sensuality. Zurburan's simple studies of pottery reflect in their contemplative stillness the artist's standing as a painter of religious and mystical subjects. In Goya's extraordinary still lifes of dead game, the genre takes on a different meaning yet again, as the agent of a poignant, almost anthropomorphic Romanticism. National Gallery (071-839-3321) 22 Feb-21 May

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