Sausages and the like have long been part of “serious” still lifes – one thinks of dark, but lustrous work in oil by the old masters hung in museums – dead fowl, cuts of meat, vegetables, perhaps some flowers, all arrayed on a plain wooden table in a dark room, light falling perfectly from a window, or maybe a lamp or candles. What is one to make of “Big Sausage,” all alone on a splashy backdrop? Surely amusement as well as an appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of ordinary objects is the order of the day.
I am sometimes asked to identify my own favorites among these prints. Before answering, let me point to my wife’s favorites: “Brown Jug,” framed in black and hanging above the reception desk, and “Dressed Lobster.”
The latter is interesting in that it was issued in an unusually large edition, un-numbered and initially unsigned. It, along with three prints by other artists issued in similar fashion, were put on sale during a related exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery for roughly $10 apiece. This was in response to criticism that print artists were artificially limiting the size of their editions in order to keep prices high. So here was a chance to have a genuine work of art by one of four very well known artists in Britain for next to nothing. Hardly any of these prints sold.
Sometime later, learning that I had purchased one, Alan Cristea asked me to bring it in and Caulfield signed it. Of course it is worth more that way, but it is exactly the same image in either case. The whole episode raises provocative questions as to just why people buy art.
I agree with my wife that “Brown Jug” is a very satisfying image – one that we have always displayed prominently in our home. A curved line that at one point transitions into a shadow. A couple of fields of color on a blue background. That’s all it takes to evoke the timeless appeal of earthenware – one of mankind’s first and most enduring endeavors.
This image contains purity, sensuality and a certain pregnancy. And while we know exactly what it is, or at least we think we do, close examination shows it isn’t strictly representational. There are puzzling aspects to this depiction – elements that make the image less of what our brain tells us such a jug would actually look like, but more pleasing from an aesthetic point of view.