Still Life, No. 3

Preston Dickinson, American, 1891 - 1930

Made in United States, North and Central America

c. 1924

Pastel and graphite on paper adhered to board

Sheet: 14 3/8 x 17 5/8 inches (36.5 x 44.8 cm) Mount: 19 1/2 x 21 15/16 inches (49.5 x 55.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of C. K. Williams, II, 1999

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Additional information:
  • PublicationAdventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection

    Still-life subjects gave Dickinson a golden opportunity to revel in his penchant for complex compositional construction, diverse objects, detailed patterning, as well as odd combinations of color. Still Life, No. 3 is one of a group of handsome undated pastels he made about 1924. Typically, he included a rectangular element, such as a picture frame or, as here, a chair back, which functions as a backdrop for an arrangement of fruit, dishes, and books on a tabletop. The flat, cropped book covers intruding at angles along the left edge of the composition imitate a device frequently seen in Japanese prints. However, the spatial arrangement of objects derives from Cubism, particularly the still lifes of Gris, though Dickinson never achieved Gris's compositional clarity. Often, Dickinson employs more than one vantage point for his still-life arrangements (Abraham A. Davidson, Early American Modernist Painting, 1910 - 1935. New York: Harper & Row, 1981, p. 208): here, the tabletop, plate of fruit, books, and salt shaker are viewed from above, while the bottle of wine, the chair back, and the two covered vessels in front of it are presented frontally. More complex is the way that objects are combined and merged, such as the white vessel whose right profile appears to extend into the plate in front of it, while the darker vessel to the left seems to float above a tiny triangular piece of tablecloth that becomes an extension of the blue cloth draped over the plate of fruit. Seen as a whole, the spatial and formal ambiguities of this picture seem oddly unified by the busy visual patterning created by the variegated surfaces of the objects--all of them rendered in soft, mottled patches of blues, browns, purples, and yellows. Innis Howe Shoemaker, from Adventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection (2009), pp. 130-132.