Choosing an object as a still-life model has always been a challenge for the artists. Most of the painters usually prefer to work on subjects which have personal values for them or have touched them deeply. Looking at the great painter’s works, one can notice that one of their repetitive subjects has been shoes. One good example is Van Gogh, who has eight paintings with the subject of shoes. The art historian, Meyer Schapiro, in his essay The Still Life as a Personal Object; A Note on Heidegger and Van Gogh, has tried to relate Van Gogh’s diaries and personal letters to his paintings of shoes. For Schapiro the truth is the art of associating the image with the text. Shapiro believes that “they [the shoes] are not less objectively rendered for being seen as if endowed with his feelings and revery about himself. In isolating his own old, worn shoes on a canvas, he turns them to the spectator; he makes of them a piece from a self-portrait, that part of the costume with which we tread the earth and in which we locate strains of movement, fatigue, pressure, heaviness_ the burden of the erect body in its contact with the ground.” (Theory and philosophy of Art, 140)
One of my favorite sketches is also portraying a pair of shoes: my old shoes. I wore them from when I was about 20 years old till my 24. I had a lot of great adventures of my life walking in them and now looking at them I try to remember how it felt to be in my shoes. Indeed, this pair of shoes has been witness to my dreams, failures, trials and tribulations. Now that I look at my drawing, I feel my presence in it, as if all the dreams and disappointments of my youth have been incarnated in their ragged, worn out appearance, or as Shapiro beautifully explains: “To “be in someone’s shoes” is to be in his predicament or his station in life. For an artist to isolate his worn shoes as the subject of a picture is for him to convey a concern with the fatalities of his social being.” (140) It is not the quality and the price of the material which makes the shoes worthy of recollection, it is the story behind it that turns it into a priceless relic.