Golden Globes - Oranges in Art / by Jeannine Cook

Looking at the glowing oranges hanging in such bounty from the trees in the garden, I find myself marvelling in the play of light on their rough skins and the intensity of the colours.  The lustrous dark green leaves are the perfect foil for the fruit, the brilliant Mediterranean blue sky above the ultimate enhancement.  The temptation to paint these oranges is constant, but I have learned that watercolours are not the best medium to convey the intensity of these glorious winter fruits.

I began thinking of the paintings I have seen over the years of oranges; I realise that of course, it is mostly artists who have lived in the Mediterranean area - or at least visited - that have used oranges in their paintings. One of the earliest artists that comes to mind who used oranges in a wonderful still life painting was Spanish Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664)I was spellbound, like so many others, when I saw this painting at the Norton Simon. It glows - and the oranges could almost be smelled in their tangy citrus perfume.

  Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose , 1633, Zurbaran, (Image courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum)

Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose, 1633, Zurbaran, (Image courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum)

  Still Life with Oranges and Watermelon , c. 1760,  Luis Melendez, c. 1760  (Image courtesy of the Prado Museum)

Still Life with Oranges and Watermelon, c. 1760,  Luis Melendez, c. 1760  (Image courtesy of the Prado Museum)

  Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts,  1772, Luis Melendez, (Image courtesy of National Gallery, London)

Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts, 1772, Luis Melendez, (Image courtesy of National Gallery, London)

Another Spanish artist that comes to mind celebrates oranges in a different fashion - oranges growing in orchards or being sold:  Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Valencia-born artist of light and Spanish life, straddled the 19th and 20th century, and recorded history, landscapes, portraits in vivid, lyrical fashion.

  The Orange Seller,   1891, Joaquin Sorolla, Private Collection

The Orange Seller,  1891, Joaquin Sorolla, Private Collection

  Orange Trees on the Road to Seville , 1903,  Joaquin Sorolla, Private Collection

Orange Trees on the Road to Seville, 1903,  Joaquin Sorolla, Private Collection

Another artist who loved the brilliance of oranges in the South of France was, of course, Vincent Van Gogh.  He returned to these golden marvels several times, and I am sure their colour not only echoed the golden yellows he loved so much in sunflowers, ripe wheat fields, or his chair, but they must have cheered him up when he was in mental anguish.

  Still Life with Basket and Six Oranges,  Vincent Van Gogh,  Arles, 1888, Private Collection

Still Life with Basket and Six Oranges, Vincent Van Gogh,  Arles, 1888, Private Collection

  Still Life with Oranges,, Lemons and Blue Gloves,  Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, (Image courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon)

Still Life with Oranges,, Lemons and Blue Gloves, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, (Image courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon)

 Paul Cezanne used them too in some of his still life paintings. One of the most famous is a complex feat of celebrating fruits, including the oranges.

  Apples and Oranges , Paul Cezanne, c. 1899, (Image courtesy of Musee d'Orsay)

Apples and Oranges, Paul Cezanne, c. 1899, (Image courtesy of Musee d'Orsay)

  Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit,  c. 1900, Paul Cezanne, (Image courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit, c. 1900, Paul Cezanne, (Image courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington)

At almost the same time, Henri Matisse was also experimenting with still life paintings that included oranges.  It was a theme to which he returned...no one can resist these golden orbs!

  Still Life with Oranges II,  Henri Matisse, c. 1899, (image courtesy of  Kemper Art Museum)

Still Life with Oranges II, Henri Matisse, c. 1899, (image courtesy of  Kemper Art Museum)

  Basket with Oranges,  1913, Henri Matisse, (Image courtesy of the Louvre, Paris)

Basket with Oranges, 1913, Henri Matisse, (Image courtesy of the Louvre, Paris)

Every time I walk in the garden and see the oranges, I understand why these artists used them in their brilliant still life studies.