segovia-1959-5-3Still Life with Birds, Oil on Canvas, ca. 1950-1955

Andres Segovia (1929-1996) is known for his surrealist still life paintings, and was the son of the noted classical guitarist of the same name. A 20th-century Argentinean artist, Andres Segovia first studied in Buenos Aires. He moved to Paris in the early 1950s to complete his studies in Europe, and by the mid-1950s his paintings and lithographs had been accepted into exhibitions throughout Europe, the United States, and Argentina. His works can now be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles as well as others.

Likely completed during the final years of his studies in Paris, Still Life with Birds portrays two dead birds hanging upside down by their feet in front of an imposing marble-like wall, which severely limits the depth of space in the painting. As such, the carcasses of the fowl are thrust towards the viewer in an attempt to encourage closer inspection of the grotesque forms. This ‘lack of depth” may also be symbolic of the “modern” concept of animals as a food source rather than living creatures. Indeed, the work’s overall style and sensibility is blunt and unglamorous. However, a bouquet of flowers, often placed at gravesites during times of profound grieving, injects a bit of a humor into the piece, as it gives the birds a personified quality. Much like the religious still lifes created during the Dutch Golden Age of painting in the 17th century, this still life includes a momento mori (Latin for “reminder of death”). In this case, the momento mori is the bouquet of flowers, whose short life span symbolizes the brevity of the human condition. While the tradition of Spanish still-life painting dates from the early 1600s, this work in many ways pokes fun at the overly profound and idealized hunting scenes and still lives of old.