During the 19th century, a number of painters used common objects (rather than rare or refined objects), to create still lifes that some critics judged as unfit for the drawing room: studies of carrots, cabbages, asparagus, oysters, onions, eggs, and cooking utensils. Often these subjects were chosen for their mealtime associations. The food represented on the table in this painting — a partridge, onions, and cabbage — are the main ingredients for the making of the well-known dish, perdrix au chou (partridge with cabbage). Cals, however, was also interested in exploring underlying compositional design principles and studying the shapes of the objects he depicted.
Cals lived and worked in and around Paris for most of his life, though in 1871 he moved to Normandy. In 1874 he participated in the first Impressionist exhibition and continued to do so until 1879. Although still lifes were an important part of his production, they were not his specialty. He preferred to work outdoors, in places chosen during his daily strolls. Art critic Edmond About, who was usually not very generous with compliments, characterized Cals as the most sincere and genuine artist he had ever known.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art.