Jo Whaley uses still life photography to recreate Zurbaran’s 16th century painting of oranges and lemons

When photography recreates historical art, magical things can happen – and this photograph of oranges and lemons is a perfect example. Here Jo Whaley describes her inspiration for the photo and gives us insight as to how she created it.

A Muse from the Past

Jo Whaley: This photograph is called After Zurbaran. There is a basket of oranges and some lemons on the side. Again, I researched the still life paintings of the 17th through the 19th century, and I came across this Spanish monk called Zurbaran and became enthralled with his paintings.

They’re very somber. There’s a mood of the lighting that I was really attracted to so what I did was actually replicated this painting in modern photography so that I would learn lighting from Zurbaran of the 16th century.
This is something your listeners can do. You can almost take any image that you admire and reproduce the lighting by looking at it and studying it. Then you will know how to light that way.

In Zurbaran’s time, there was a more easy relationship with nature, and in our time there is not. There is I would say an environmental anxiety — a nervousness about what we have done and created. (click the image for a larger version)

What I did was took the lemons and instead of having them juicy and perfect, they’re black and juicy. Zurbaran had a little pewter teacup that had a rose in it. Instead, I have a dripping oil can. Otherwise, the image looks almost identical to this painting from the 16th century.

In Conclusion

If this photograph of oranges and lemons looks familiar, there’s good reason for it. It turns out it’s Jo Whaley’s recreation of a Zurbaran painting. By taking the scene of the oranges and lemons and putting her own twist on it, Jo was able to create an dramatic work of art.