This month I am proud to highlight one of our women artists. Fannie Duvall (1861-1934) was born and educated in New York (Cooper Union) and settled in Los Angeles (1888), but lived on and off in Paris throughout her life. Duvall chose to follow the Impressionists early on in her career and worked in the atelier of James Abbot McNeil Whistler.
With Still Life with Oranges and Marmalade, c. 1889, Duvall illustrates her artistic merit and facility. Still life was a genre that allowed artists to test their talents, and it was popular in 17th century Dutch works for illustrating the wealth of society and transience of life. Duvall treads lightly on this invention with her more rustic scene involving a workaday pine table filled with symbolic oranges (fertility) with a brilliantly rendered copper bowl.
She achieves success here in several ways. Just look at the various textures rendered: copper, wood table, draped cloth, waxed fruit, tankards (background) and flower blossoms. All have a different surface which she pulls off beautifully. Her virtuosity is further illustrated in the mirror image of the copper bowl reflecting additional objects and utensils on the table.
The composition situates each orange posing at the edge of the table, all facing different directions—notice three to the left and three to the right. For balance, the orange and blossoms are added over the side of the table, while those that rolled to the front face the upturned spatula that sits as if a paddle prepared to smack them to the ground.
The hint of the fragrant orange blossoms act as a reminder that chaste and innocent behavior should be upheld, while the translucent jars of sealed marmalade (at right) whimsically state that all is “preserved” for posterity.