Isaak Soreau, simplicity and abundance

On 06 June 2019, by Anne Foster

His father’s student, Isaak Soreau completed his training as a still-life painter first with Stoskopff, then with Van Hulsdonck in Antwerp. This work from the former Riechers collection features two of the genre’s characteristics: simplicity and abundance.

Isaak Soreau (1604-1644), Basket of Grapes and Apricots, Redcurrant Branch on an Entablature, oil on copper, 27.6 x 34 cm.
Estimate (provisional): €80,000/100,000

The top of the composition stands out against a plain, dark background brushed with broad strokes. Bunches of grapes, some apricots and plums are in a wicker basket. Nuts, a cherry and a chili pepper, which adds an exotic touch, are tossed together as if in a well-arranged heap on the simple top of the wooden table. The redcurrants have just been picked; dewdrops still quiver on their leaves. Soreau gathered the fragile fruits, grown in greenhouses or imported, leaving those of the garden on the entablature. The layout is emblematic of his work, still archaic in its meticulous execution, smooth workmanship and simple, static composition. Of Flemish origin, his family settled in Frankfurt, Germany to join the supporters of the Reformation. His father, Daniel, worked first for the family wool business, then as a painter and architect. Isaak was trained in the paternal workshop, taken over upon Daniel’s death in 1619 by Sébastien Stoskopff, who had just completed his apprenticeship. In 1626, Isaak went to Antwerp, where he was probably Jacob Van Hulsdonck's (1582-1647) student. He shows exceptional technique and rare acuity. From one work to another, repeating the same composition, he adds details or leaves out certain fruits to differentiate them. The painting at the Petit Palais in Paris, for example, offers a more horizontal layout, where a basket filled with bunches of grapes is surrounded by a shallow bowl made of blue-white Chinese porcelain and a tin dish. Soreau was influenced not only by Stoskopff’s way of highlighting the natural beauty of objects and fruit, but also by the opulence of his teacher Van Hulsdonck’s Flemish still lifes. Unrecognised by art historians until the mid-20th century, Soreau’s work is now sought after by art lovers such as Yvonne and Jean Riechers, who assembled a still-life collection favouring lesser-known specialists in the genre. His paintings are in the best public collections, particularly in Germany, Munich and Hamburg.

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