Joseph Decker (American, 1853–1924)
Upset, ca. 1887
Oil on canvas
9 x 14 ¼ in. (22.9 x 36.2 cm)


One of German-born artist Joseph Decker’s greatest specialties was the highly illusionistic representation of plentiful boxes or baskets displaying beautiful, fanciful content. Whether depicting dozens of apples or cherries, a variety of candy (as in Upset), or other trinkets intended to dazzle the eye and pique the senses, these pictures speak to the increased commodification of consumer tastes–for both sweets and painting–during the latter part of the 19th century.
With Upset–it’s very title playfully confessing the conceit of an overturned container–the viewer is brought into close proximity with the spilled contents of a stark white, opened box. In this tightly compact, horizontal image, a dizzying variety of sweet delicacies are proffered for the viewer–mutli-colored and variously shaped, shiny, gellied, sugar-encrusted, caramelized, cubed and ovoid, candied, paper-wrapped, transparent, and opaque.


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