Tanja Möderscheim, Dutch fine artist

Fine Dutch still life paintings: 17th C style, technique and pigments

I’m a Dutch fine artist in London and I specialise in still life paintings. I celebrate and explore cultural heritage and in particular that of the 17th century Dutch Golden Age. Light and how it touches the subject is also an important focus in my paintings.

I stay true to this period by only using 17th century techniques and pigments. Setting the paintings in bespoke Golden Age-style frames or hand-picked period frames, allows me to produce fine Dutch still life paintings.

Typical subjects of the 17th century, I paint heritage tulips, fruit and produce, Delft Blueware and bird still life. I source the tulip bulbs from Hortus Bulborum in Holland, a foundation which preserves heritage tulip cultivars. As I cultivate these in my garden I have an extensive collection of tulip varieties to paint, with the oldest tulips dating back to the late 16th century. In 2019 my work on tulips was warmly welcomed by the Society of Botanical Artists, of which I’m now a fellow member (Exhibiting Excellence Award 2021). My paintings of Delftware portray antique pieces in my own and museum collections, and my hunting still life paintings feature game birds, some of which were traditionally reserved for the Dutch aristocracy in the 17th century.

My attention to detail and anatomy, nurtured by my background in the biological sciences (MSc, PhD), is a nod to the renewed interest in naturalism in the 1600s.

Fruit and produce

I also explore culinary tradition through paintings of British and French artisans’ food produce, celebrating their role in local communities. This led to a collaboration with the BBC Food and Farming Awards in 2016 and paintings of produce grown by members of the Collège Culinaire de France in 2019. My paintings of Roman tableware finds are also part of the theme of heritage and tradition. In addition I often paint fruit.

Exhibitions and events

I exhibit regularly in between painting commissioned/bespoke pieces. Selected exhibitions and events include the Mall Galleries (RBA, SWA, SBA), Affordable Art Fair and Game Fair. I also give lectures (Anglo Dutch Society).

Inspiration: Dutch Masters active during the 17th Century: first half of the 17th-Century Golden Age, working in the “ontbijt” or “breakfast” genre – handling of light, e.g., Pieter Claesz. Flower and other painters throughout the 17th Century: Bosschaert, Van der Ast, Mignon, Willem van Aelst, Rachel Ruysch, Roelandt Savery. Spanish painters: Zurbarán, Cotan, Yepes, Meléndez. More recent times: Henri Fantin-Latour and Claudio Bravo.

Technique: classical painting technique involving grounding, dead-colouring, working up and glazing. Paintings on fine Belgian linen, Italian poplar panels, silver and 23ct gold.

Palette: pigments available to the 17th C painter: vermilion, madder lake, lead-tin yellow, stil de grain/schietgeel, lapis lazuli, blue verditer, smalt, malachite, Mt Amiata sienas, Cyprus umbers, Cassel earth, lead white and lead white with chalk, and bone black. Some of these historical pigments are not lightfast or prone to discolouration and therefore used in line with comments published in 17th C contemporary and modern academic literature.

Composition: expressing a sense of stillness, beauty, elegance and refinement.

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Tanja Möderscheim

Painting lemons in J.M.W Turner’s House in Twickenham, before the renovation (October 2015)

Dutch 16th -19th century heritage tulips

Tulip work: Dutch heritage tulips 1595-1850