Gallery Acquires Still-Life Painting by Audrey Flack

Still-life painting featuring flowers in a jar, a glass dish of fruit, and other objects on a table.

Audrey Flack, Time to Save, 1979. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund. © Audrey Flack

Among the Gallery’s exciting new acquisitions is the Photorealist still-life painting Time to Save (1979) by Audrey Flack, B.F.A. 1952. What at first glance seems to be simply a colorful reinterpretation of a traditional vanitas painting—a genre of still life invented by 17th-century Dutch artists to ruminate on the transience of life—is altogether more surprising upon closer inspection. Elements typical of the still-life genre, whether natural or manmade, are here painted to look artificial: a bird made of cheap ceramic, a trinket shaped like a skull, and a cluster of impossibly golden grapes. Other objects—a glass compote dish, an hourglass, and a shell—are precariously balanced, appearing as though they might slip off the edge of the table at any moment. Every element is finished with equal luster, at once calling into question the authenticity of the things that are depicted and suggesting that the still life is an illusion composed of illusions. This enchanting painting is on view in the museum’s third-floor modern and contemporary art galleries.

Keely Orgeman
Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art