A Debt To Bodegons

This week’s featured painting is “Olives, Creamer, Pear, Ginger Jar” from 2021.  It is done with oil on panel, and measures 18 x 30 inches.

Many of my paintings – and this one in particular – owe a debt to the tradition of Spanish Bodegon paintings.

Coming from the Spanish word “Bodega”, literally meaning “tavern” or “storehouse”, these paintings depict common objects of the kitchen and the pantry – food, drink, cooking utensils, and so on – and for centuries this genre has intrigued Spanish artists. 


These compositions are often arranged with great care to best reveal color, texture, and form, and the subjects are often rendered with a high degree of detail.

Bodegons also frequently employ Chiaroscuro – the play of light and dark that can introduce great visual depth and a powerful sense of drama and mystery. 


This subcategory of still life painting arose as Spanish artists began to encounter and react to the great still lifes of the 17th century Dutch masters.

At first they imitated their examples, and then molded the genre into their own venue for exploring the detail and color of everyday life.

Some of the main practitioners of this type of painting were Zurbaron, Cotan, Ribera, van der Hamen, and my personal favorite, Luis Melendez.


Not merely aesthetically pleasing arrangements, these paintings are rich in symbols – many of the great practitioners were also painters of religious scenes. Their Bodegons are filled with the visual language of the Catholic church, and often speak to mortality and the brevity of earthly life.

For me, the simplicity and richness of Bodegon paintings mark the very heart and soul of still life.