Still life
Overview
 
A still life is a work of art
Work of art
A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation.The term "a work of art" can apply to:*an example of fine art, such as a painting or sculpture*a fine work of architecture or landscape design...

 depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on). With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greek/Roman art, still life paintings give the artist more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within a composition than do paintings of other types of subjects such as landscape
Landscape art
Landscape art is a term that covers the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, and especially art where the main subject is a wide view, with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works landscape backgrounds for figures can still...

 or portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

ure.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
A still life is a work of art
Work of art
A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation.The term "a work of art" can apply to:*an example of fine art, such as a painting or sculpture*a fine work of architecture or landscape design...

 depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on). With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greek/Roman art, still life paintings give the artist more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within a composition than do paintings of other types of subjects such as landscape
Landscape art
Landscape art is a term that covers the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, and especially art where the main subject is a wide view, with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works landscape backgrounds for figures can still...

 or portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

ure. Still life paintings, particularly before 1700, often contained religious and allegorical symbolism relating to the objects depicted. Some modern still life breaks the two-dimensional barrier and employs three-dimensional mixed media, and uses found objects, photography, computer graphics
Computer graphics
Computer graphics are graphics created using computers and, more generally, the representation and manipulation of image data by a computer with help from specialized software and hardware....

, as well as video and sound.

Antecedents

Still life paintings often adorn the interior of ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian tombs. It was believed that food objects and other items depicted there would, in the afterlife, become real and available for use by the deceased. Ancient Greek vase paintings also demonstrate great skill in depicting everyday objects and animals. Similar still life, more simply decorative in intent, but with realistic perspective, have also been found in the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 wall paintings and floor mosaics unearthed at Pompeii
Pompeii
The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning...

, Herculaneum
Herculaneum
Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in AD 79, located in the territory of the current commune of Ercolano, in the Italian region of Campania in the shadow of Mt...

 and the Villa Boscoreale
Villa Boscoreale
Villa Boscoreale is an ancient Roman villa located in the town of Boscoreale, about one and a half kilometers north of Pompeii, southwest of Vesuvius, in Campania, southern Italy. This area was a hunting reserve and also used agriculturally, specializing in wine and olive oil. Evidence in tablets...

, including the later familiar motif of a glass bowl of fruit. Decorative mosaics termed "emblema", found in the homes of rich Romans, demonstrated the range of food enjoyed by the upper classes, and also functioned as signs of hospitality and as celebrations of the seasons and of life. By the 16th century, food and flowers would again appear as symbols of the seasons and of the five senses. Also starting in Roman times is the tradition of the use of the skull in paintings as a symbol of mortality and earthly remains, often with the accompanying phrase Omnia mors aequat (Death makes all equal). These vanitas
Vanitas
In the arts, vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with Northern European still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods. The word is Latin, meaning "emptiness" and loosely translated...

 images have been re-interpreted through the last 400 years of art history, starting with Dutch painters around 1600.

The popular appreciation of the realism of still life painting is related in the ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 legend of Zeuxis and Parrhasius
Zeuxis and Parrhasius
.Zeuxis was a painter who flourished during the 5th century BC.-Life and work:Zeuxis was born in Heraclea, probably Heraclea Lucania in southern Italy, around 464 BC and was presumably the pupil of Apollodorus. Zeuxis often thought himself misunderstood by his public and Aristotle did not like...

, who are said to have once competed to create the most life-like objects, history’s earliest descriptions of trompe-l'œil painting. As Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 recorded in ancient Roman times, Greek artists centuries earlier were already advanced in the arts of portrait painting
Portrait painting
Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. Beside human beings, animals, pets and even inanimate objects can be chosen as the subject for a portrait...

 and still life. He singled out Peiraikos, "whose artistry is surpassed by only a very few...He painted barbershops and shoemakers’ stalls, donkeys, vegetables, and such, and for that reason came to be called the ‘painter of vulgar subjects’; yet these works are altogether delightful, and they were sold at higher prices than the greatest [paintings] of many other artists."

Middle Ages and Renaissance

By 1300, starting with Giotto and his pupils, still life painting was revived in the form of fictional niches on religious wall paintings which depicted everyday objects. Through the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, still life in Western art remained primarily an adjunct to Christian religious subjects, and convened religious and allegorical meaning. This was particularly true in the work of Northern European artists, whose fascination with highly detailed optical realism and symbolism led them to lavish great attention on their paintings' overall message. Painters like Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter active in Bruges and considered one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century....

 often used still life elements as part of an iconographic
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 program.

The development of oil painting
Oil painting
Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil—especially in early modern Europe, linseed oil. Often an oil such as linseed was boiled with a resin such as pine resin or even frankincense; these were called 'varnishes' and were prized for their body...

 technique by Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter active in Bruges and considered one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century....

 and other Northern European artists made it possible to paint everyday objects in this hyper-realistic fashion, owing to the slow drying, mixing, and layering qualities of oil colors. Among the first to break free of religious meaning were Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, who created watercolor studies of fruit (around 1495) as part of his restless examination of nature, and Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since...

 who also made precise drawings of flora and fauna.

Petrus Christus’ portrait of a bride and groom visiting a goldsmith is a typical example of a transitional still life depicting both religious and secular content. Though mostly allegorical in message, the figures of the couple are realistic and the objects shown (coins, vessels, etc.) are accurately painted but the goldsmith is actually a depiction of St. Eligius and the objects heavily symbolic. Another similar type of painting is the family portrait combining figures with a well-set table of food, which symbolizes both the piety of the human subjects and their thanks for God’s abundance. Around this time, simple still life depictions divorced of figures (but not allegorical meaning) were beginning to be painted on the outside of shutters of private devotional paintings. Another step toward the autonomous still life was the painting of symbolic flowers in vases on the back of secular portraits around 1475. Jacopo de’ Barbari went a step further with his Still Life with Partridge, Iron Gloves, and Crossbow Arrows (1504), among the earliest signed and dated trompe-l'œil still life paintings, which contains minimal religious content.

Sixteenth century

The 16th century witnessed an explosion of interest in the natural world and the creation of lavish botanical encyclopædias recording the discoveries of the New World and Asia. It also prompted the beginning of scientific illustration and the classification of specimens. Natural objects began to be appreciated as individual objects of study apart from any religious or mythological associations. The early science of herbal remedies began at this time as well, a practical extension of this new knowledge. In addition, wealthy patrons began to underwrite the collection of animal and mineral specimens, creating extensive "curio cabinets". These specimens served as models for painters who sought realism and novelty. Shells, insects, exotic fruits and flowers began to be collected and traded, and new plants such as the tulip
Tulip
The tulip is a perennial, bulbous plant with showy flowers in the genus Tulipa, which comprises 109 species and belongs to the family Liliaceae. The genus's native range extends from as far west as Southern Europe, North Africa, Anatolia, and Iran to the Northwest of China. The tulip's centre of...

 (imported to Europe from Turkey), were celebrated in still life paintings. The horticultural explosion was of wide spread interest in Europe and artist capitalized on that to produce thousands of still life paintings. Some regions and courts had particular interests. The depiction of citrus, for example, was a particular passion of the Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 court in Florence, Italy. This great diffusion of natural specimens and the burgeoning interest in natural illustration throughout Europe, resulted in the nearly simultaneous creation of modern still life paintings around 1600.

By the second half of the 16th century, the autonomous still life evolved. Gradually, religious content diminished in size and placement in these painting, though moral lessons continued as sub-contexts. An example is "The Butcher Shop" by Joachim Beuckelaer (1568), with its realistic depiction of raw meats dominating the foreground, while a background scene conveys the dangers of drunkenness and lechery. Annibale Carracci
Annibale Carracci
Annibale Carracci was an Italian Baroque painter.-Early career:Annibale Carracci was born in Bologna, and in all likelihood first apprenticed within his family...

’s treatment of the same subject in 1583 also called Butcher's Shop
Butcher's Shop (Annibale Carracci)
The Butcher's Shop is a painting by the Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci. Dating from the 1580s , it is in the Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford....

begins to remove the moral messages, as did other "kitchen and market" still life paintings of this period.

Seventeenth century

Even though Italian still life painting was gaining in popularity, it remained historically less respected than the "grand manner" painting of historical, religious, and mythic subjects. Prominent Academicians of the early 17th century, such as Andrea Sacchi
Andrea Sacchi
Andrea Sacchi was an Italian painter of High Baroque Classicism, active in Rome. A generation of artists who shared his style of art include the painters Nicolas Poussin and Giovanni Battista Passeri, the sculptors Alessandro Algardi and François Duquesnoy, and the contemporary biographer Giovanni...

, felt that genre and still life painting did not carry the "gravitas" merited for painting to be considered great. On the other hand, successful Italian still life artists found ample patronage in their day. Furthermore, women painters, few as they were, commonly chose or were restricted to painting still life; Giovanna Garzoni
Giovanna Garzoni
Giovanna Garzoni was an Italian painter of the Baroque era. She was unusual for Italian artists of thetime for two reasons: first, in that her themes were mainly decorative and luscious still-lifes of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and second, because she was a woman.Garzoni was born in Ascoli...

, Laura Bernasconi
Laura Bernasconi
Laura Bernasconi was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, known to be active in 1674. Born and died in Rome, she trained with Mario Nuzzi, and like him, painted still life paintings of flowers. This same thematic had been favored by Giovanna Garzoni, another woman painter in Rome who died in...

, Maria Theresa van Thielen
Maria Theresa van Thielen
Maria Theresia van Thielen was a Flemish Baroque painter.-Biography:Maria van Thielen was born into an artistic patrician family. According to Houbraken, she competed with her sisters Anna Maria and Francoise Katharina and was very successful. The sister Anna may well have been her aunt Anna,...

, and Fede Galizia
Fede Galizia
Fede Galizia was an Italian Renaissance painter, a pioneer of the still life genre.- Life:Fede Gallizi, better known as Galizia, was born in Milan in 1578. Her father, Nunzio Galizia, also a painter of miniatures, had moved to Milan from Trento. Fede learned to paint from him...

 are notable examples.

Many leading Italian artists in other genre, also produced some still life paintings. In particular, Caravaggio
Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque...

 applied his influential form of naturalism to still life. His Basket of Fruit (c. 1595-1600) is one of the first examples of pure still life, precisely rendered and set at eye level. Though not overtly symbolic, this painting was owned by Cardinal Borromeo and may have been appreciated for both religious and aesthetic reasons. Jan Bruegel painted his Large Milan Bouquet (1606) for the cardinal, as well, claiming that he painted it 'fatta tutti del natturel' (made all from nature) and he charged extra for the extra effort. These were among many still life paintings in the cardinal’s collection, in addition to his large collection of curios. Among other Italian still life, Bernardo Strozzi
Bernardo Strozzi
Bernardo Strozzi was a prominent and prolific Italian Baroque painter born and active mainly in Genoa, and also active in Venice.-Biography:Strozzi was born in Genoa. He was probably not related to the other Strozzi family....

’s The Cook is a "kitchen scene" in the Dutch manner, which is both a detailed portrait of a cook and the game birds she is preparing. In a similar manner, one of Rembrandt’s rare still life paintings, Little Girl with Dead Peacocks combines a similar sympathetic female portrait with images of game birds.

Dutch, Flemish, German, Portuguese, and Spanish still lifes

Still life developed as a separate category in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 in the last quarter of the 16th century, and the English term derives from stilleven: still life, which is a calque
Calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

 while Romance languages (and Russian) tend to use terms meaning dead nature. 15th century Early Netherlandish painting
Early Netherlandish painting
Early Netherlandish painting refers to the work of artists active in the Low Countries during the 15th- and early 16th-century Northern renaissance, especially in the flourishing Burgundian cities of Bruges and Ghent...

 had developed highly illusionistic techniques in both panel painting
Panel painting
A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall or vellum, which was used for...

 and illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s, where the borders often featured elaborate displays of flowers, insects and, in a work like the Hours of Catherine of Cleves
Hours of Catherine of Cleves
The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is an ornately illuminated manuscript in the Gothic art style, produced in about 1440 by the anonymous Dutch artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves. It is one of the most...

, a great variety of objects. When the illuminated manuscript was displaced by the printed book, the same skills were later deployed in scientific botanical illustration; the Netherlands led Europe in both botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 and its depiction in art. Joris Hoefnagel
Joris Hoefnagel
Joris Hoefnagel or Georg Hoefnagel was a Flemish painter and engraver, the son of a diamond merchant.He travelled abroad, making drawings from archaeological subjects, and was a pupil of Hans Bol at Mechlin...

 (1542–1601) made watercolour and gouache
Gouache
Gouache[p], also spelled guache, the name of which derives from the Italian guazzo, water paint, splash or bodycolor is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is also present, just as in watercolor...

 paintings of flowers and other still life subjects for the Emperor Rudolf II, and there were many engraved illustrations for books (often then hand-coloured), such as Hans Collaert
Hans Collaert
Hans Collaert was an early Flemish engraver, father of the engravers Hans Collaert II , who married Elisabeth Galle, and Adrian Collaert who married Justa Galle, both daughters of the engraver and publisher Philip Galle...

's Florilegium, published by Plantin
Plantin
Plantin may refer to:*Christophe Plantin , Humanist, printer, and publisher*Plantin *Plantin Press, 16th century Antwerp publisher*Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp*6808 Plantin, asteroid...

 in 1600.

In Spanish art
Spanish art
Spanish art is the visual art of Spain, and that of Spanish artists worldwide. Whilst an important contributor to Western art and producing many famous and influential artists Spanish art has often had distinctive characteristics and been assessed...

, a bodegón
Bodegón
The term bodega in Spanish can mean "pantry", "tavern", or "wine cellar". The derivative term bodegón is an augmentative that refers to a large bodega, usually in a derogatory fashion...

 is a still life painting depicting pantry items, such as victuals, game, and drink, often arranged on a simple stone slab, and also a painting with one or more figures, but significant still life elements, typically set in a kitchen or tavern. Starting in the Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 period, such paintings became popular in Spain in the second quarter of the 17th century. The tradition of still life painting appears to have started and was far more popular in the contemporary Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

, today Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 (then Flemish and Dutch artists), than it ever was in southern Europe. Northern still lifes had many sub-genre's; the breakfast piece was augmented by the trompe-l'œil, the flower bouquet , and the vanitas
Vanitas
In the arts, vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with Northern European still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods. The word is Latin, meaning "emptiness" and loosely translated...

. In Spain there were much fewer patrons for this sort of thing, but a type of breakfast piece did become popular, featuring a few objects of food and tableware laid on a table.

There was also a type of very large kitchen or market scene developed by Pieter van Aelst
Pieter van Aelst
Pieter van Aelst or Pieter Coecke van Aelst was a Flemish painter. He studied under Bernaert van Orley and later lived in Italy before entering the Antwerp Guild of painters in 1527. In 1533, he travelled to Constantinople for one year in a failed attempt to establish business connections for...

 (1502–1550) and his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer
Joachim Beuckelaer
Joachim Beuckelaer was a Flemish painter.A native of Antwerp, he studied under his uncle, Pieter Aertsen. Many of his paintings contain scenes of kitchen and markets, with religious allusions in the background. His Four Elements series exemplifies this theme on a large scale...

. Amid an abundance of food and kitchenware still life, supervised by burly Flemish kitchen-maids, a small religious scene can often be made out in the distance, or a theme such as the Four Seasons
Season
A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight.Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution...

 elevates the subject. This sort of large-scale still life continued to develop in Flemish painting after the separation of the North and South, but is rare in Dutch painting, although other works in this tradition anticipate the "merry company" type of genre painting
Genre painting
Genre works, also called genre scenes or genre views, are pictorial representations in any of various media that represent scenes or events from everyday life, such as markets, domestic settings, interiors, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. Such representations may be realistic, imagined, or...

.

Around 1600 flower paintings in oils became something of a craze; Karel van Mander painted some works himself, and records that other Northern Mannerist artists such as Cornelis van Haarlem
Cornelis van Haarlem
Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem , Dutch Golden Age painter and draughtsman, was one of the leading Northern Mannerist artists in The Netherlands, and an important forerunner of Frans Hals as a portraitist.-Biography:...

 also did so. No surviving flower-pieces by them are known, but many survive by the leading specialists, Jan Brueghel the Elder
Jan Brueghel the Elder
Jan Brueghel the Elder was a Flemish painter, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and father of Jan Brueghel the Younger. Nicknamed "Velvet" Brueghel, "Flower" Brueghel, and "Paradise" Brueghel, of which the latter two were derived from his floral still lifes which were his favored subjects, while the...

 and Ambrosius Bosschaert
Ambrosius Bosschaert
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was a still life painter of the Dutch Golden Age.-Biography:He was born in Antwerp, where he started his career, but he spent most of it in Middelburg , where he moved with his family because of the threat of religious persecution...

, who both remained in the Flemish south of the Netherlands.

While artists in the North found limited opportunity to produce the religious iconography which had long been their staple—images of religious subjects were forbidden in the Dutch Reformed Protestant Church
Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church was a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It existed from the 1570s to 2004, the year it merged with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to form the Protestant Church in the...

—the continuing Northern tradition of detailed realism and hidden symbols appealed to the growing Dutch middle classes, who were replacing Church and State as the principal patrons of art in the Netherlands. Added to this was the Dutch mania for horticulture, particularly the tulip. These two views of flowers—as aesthetic objects and as religious symbols— merged to create a very strong market for this type of still life. Still life, like most Dutch art work, was generally sold in open markets or by dealers, or by artists at their studios, and rarely commissioned; therefore, artists usually chose the subject matter and arrangement. So popular was this type of still life painting, that much of the technique of Dutch flower painting was codified in the 1740 treatise Groot Schilderboeck by Gerard de Lairesse, which gave wide-ranging advice on color, arranging, brushwork, preparation of specimens, harmony, composition, perspective, etc.

The symbolism of flowers had evolved since early Christian days. The most common flowers and their symbolic meanings include: rose (Virgin Mary, transience, Venus, love); lily (Virgin Mary, virginity, female breast, purity of mind or justice); tulip (showiness, nobility); sunflower (faithfulness, divine love, devotion); violet (modesty, reserve, humility); columbine (melancholy); poppy (power, sleep, death). As for insects, the butterfly represents transformation and resurrection while the dragonfly symbolizes transience and the ant hard work and attention to the harvest.

Dutch artists also branched out and revived the ancient Greek still life tradition of trompe-l'œil, particularly the imitation of nature or mimesis, which they termed bedriegertje ("little deception"). In addition to these types of still life, Dutch artists identified and separately developed "kitchen and market" paintings, breakfast and food table still life, vanitas paintings, and allegorical collection paintings.

Especially popular in this period were vanitas
Vanitas
In the arts, vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with Northern European still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods. The word is Latin, meaning "emptiness" and loosely translated...

 paintings, in which sumptuous arrangements of fruit and flowers, books, statuettes, vases, coins, jewelry, paintings, musical and scientific instruments, military insignia, fine silver and crystal, were accompanied by symbolic reminders of life's impermanence. Additionally, a skull, an hourglass
Hourglass
An hourglass measures the passage of a few minutes or an hour of time. It has two connected vertical glass bulbs allowing a regulated trickle of material from the top to the bottom. Once the top bulb is empty, it can be inverted to begin timing again. The name hourglass comes from historically...

 or pocket watch, a candle burning down or a book with pages turning, would serve as a moralizing message on the ephemerality of sensory pleasures. Often some of the fruits and flowers themselves would be shown starting to spoil or fade to emphasize the same point.

Another type of still life, known as "breakfast paintings", represent both a literal presentation of delicacies that the upper class might enjoy and a religious reminder to avoid gluttony. In another Dutch innovation, around 1650 Samuel van Hoogstraten painted one of the first wall-rack pictures, trompe-l'œil still life paintings which feature objects tied, tacked or attached in some other fashion to a wall board, a type of still life very popular in the United States in the 19th century. Another variation was the trompe-l'œil still life depicted objects associated with a given profession, as with the Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrecht’s painting "Painter’s Easel with Fruit Piece", which displays all the tools of a painter’s craft. Also popular in the first half of the 17th century was the painting of a large assortment of specimens in allegorical form, such as the "five senses", "four continents", or "the four seasons", showing a goddess or allegorical figure surrounded by appropriate natural and man-made objects. The popularity of vanitas paintings, and these other forms of still life, soon spread from Holland to Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 and Germany, and also to Spain and France.

German still life followed closely the Dutch models. German painter Georg Flegel
Georg Flegel
Georg Flegel was a German painter, best known for his still life works.Flegel was born in Olmütz , Moravia. Around 1580 he moved to Vienna, where he became a assistant to Lucas van Valckenborch I, a painter and draughtsman. Flegel and his employer later moved to Frankfurt, which at the time was an...

 was a pioneer in pure still life without figures and created the compositional innovation of placing detailed objects in cabinets, cupboards, and display cases, and producing simultaneous multiple views. Still life painting in Spain, also called bodegones
Bodegón
The term bodega in Spanish can mean "pantry", "tavern", or "wine cellar". The derivative term bodegón is an augmentative that refers to a large bodega, usually in a derogatory fashion...

, was austere. It differed from Dutch still life, which often contained rich banquets surrounded by ornate and luxurious items of fabric or glass. The game in Spanish paintings is often plain dead animals still waiting to be skinned. The fruits and vegetables are uncooked. The backgrounds are bleak or plain wood geometric blocks, often creating a surrealist air. Even while both Dutch and Spanish still life often had an embedded moral purpose, the austerity, which some find akin to the bleakness of some of the Spanish plateaus, appears to reject the sensual pleasures, plenitude, and luxury of Dutch still life paintings. In Catholic Italy and Spain, the pure vanitas painting was rare, and there were far fewer still life specialists. In Southern Europe there is more employment of the soft naturalism of Caravaggio and less emphasis on hyper-realism in comparison with Northern European styles. In France, painters of still lifes (nature morte) were influenced by both the Northern and Southern schools, borrowing from the vanitas paintings of the Netherlands and the spare arrangements of Spain.

Dutch, Flemish, German and French gallery

Eighteenth century

By the 18th century, in many cases, the religious and allegorical connotations of still life paintings were dropped and kitchen table paintings evolved into calculated depictions of varied color and form, displaying everyday foods. The French aristocracy employed artists to execute paintings of bounteous and extravagant still life subjects that graced their dining table, also without the moralistic vanitas message of their Dutch predecessors. The Rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 love of artifice led to a rise in appreciation in France for trompe-l'œil (French: "trick the eye") painting. Jean-Baptiste Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities...

’s still life paintings employ a variety of techniques from Dutch-style realism to softer harmonies.

The bulk of Anne Vallayer-Coster
Anne Vallayer-Coster
Anne Vallayer-Coster was an 18th-century French painter. Known as a prodigy artist at a young age, she achieved fame and recognition very early in her career, being admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1770, at the age of twenty-six.Despite the negative reputation that...

’s work was devoted to the language of still-life as it had been developed in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During these centuries, the genre of still-life was placed lowest on the hierarchical ladder. Vallayer-Coster had a way about her paintings that resulted in their attractiveness. It was the "bold, decorative lines of her compositions, the richness of her colors and simulated textures, and the feats of illusionism she achieved in depicting wide variety of objects, both natural and artificial" which drew in the attention of the Royal Académie and the numerous collectors who purchased her paintings. This interaction between art and nature was quite common in Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Flemish
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 and French still lifes. Her work reveals the clear influence of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities...

, as well as 17th-century Dutch masters, whose work has been far more highly valued, but what made Vallayer-Coster’s style stand out against the other still life painters was her unique way of coalescing representational illusionism with decorative compositional structures.

The end of the eighteenth-century and the fall of the French monarchy closed the doors on Vallayer-Coster’s still life ‘era’ and opened them to her new style of florals. It has been argued that this was the highlight of her career and what she is best known for. However, it has also been argued that the flower paintings were futile to her career. Nevertheless, this collection contained floral studies in oil, watercolor and gouache.

Nineteenth century

With the rise of the European Academies, most notably the Académie française
Académie française
L'Académie française , also called the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution,...

 which held a central role in Academic art
Academic art
Academic art is a style of painting and sculpture produced under the influence of European academies of art. Specifically, academic art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, which practiced under the movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism,...

, still life began to fall from favor. The Academies taught the doctrine of the "Hierarchy of genres
Hierarchy of genres
A hierarchy of genres is any formalization which ranks different genres in an art form in terms of their prestige and cultural value....

" (or "Hierarchy of Subject Matter"), which held that a painting's artistic merit
Artistic merit
Artistic merit is a term that is used in relation to cultural products when referring to the judgment of their perceived quality or value as works of art....

 was based primarily on its subject. In the Academic system, the highest form of painting consisted of images of historical
History painting
History painting is a genre in painting defined by subject matter rather than an artistic style, depicting a moment in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such as a portrait...

, Biblical or mythological significance, with still life subjects relegated to the very lowest order of artistic recognition. Instead of using still life to glorify nature, some artists, such as John Constable
John Constable
John Constable was an English Romantic painter. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home—now known as "Constable Country"—which he invested with an intensity of affection...

 and Camille Corot, chose landscapes to serve that end.

When Neo-Classicism started to go into decline by the 1830s, genre and portrait painting became the focus for the Realist and Romantic artistic revolutions. Many of the great artists of that period included still life in their body of work. The still life paintings of Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Goya was a court painter to the Spanish Crown, and through his works was both a commentator on and chronicler of his era...

, Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

, and Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

 convey a strong emotional current, and are less concerned with exactitude and more interested in mood. Though patterned on the earlier still life subjects of Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities...

, Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism....

’s still life paintings are strongly tonal and clearly headed toward Impressionism. Henri Fantin-Latour
Henri Fantin-Latour
Henri Fantin-Latour was a French painter and lithographer best known for his flower paintings and group portraits of Parisian artists and writers.-Biography:...

, using a more traditional technique, was famous for his exquisite flower paintings and made his living almost exclusively painting still life for collectors.

However, it was not until the final decline of the Academic hierarchy in Europe, and the rise of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, that technique and color harmony triumphed over subject matter, and that still life was once again avidly practiced by artists. In his early still life, Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. . Retrieved 6 January 2007...

 shows the influence of Fantin-Latour, but is one of the first to break the tradition of the dark background, which Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to...

 also discards in Still Life with Bouquet and Fan (1871), with its bright orange background. With Impressionist still life, allegorical and mythological content is completely absent, as is meticulously detailed brush work. Impressionists instead focused on experimentation in broad, dabbing brush strokes, tonal values, and color placement. The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were inspired by nature’s color schemes but reinterpreted nature with their own color harmonies, which sometimes proved startlingly unnaturalistic. As Gauguin stated, "Colors have their own meanings." Variations in perspective are also tried, such as using tight cropping and high angles, as with Fruit Displayed on a Stand by Gustave Caillebotte
Gustave Caillebotte
Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter, member and patron of the group of artists known as Impressionists, though he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group...

, a painting which was mocked at the time as a "display of fruit in a bird’s-eye view."

Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh , and used Brabant dialect in his writing; it is therefore likely that he himself pronounced his name with a Brabant accent: , with a voiced V and palatalized G and gh. In France, where much of his work was produced, it is...

's "Sunflowers" paintings are some of the best known 19th century still life paintings. Van Gogh uses mostly tones of yellow and rather flat rendering to make a memorable contribution to still life history. His Still Life with Drawing Board (1889) is a self-portrait in still life form, with van Gogh depicting many items of his personal life, including his pipe, simple food (onions), an inspirational book, and a letter from his brother, all laid out on his table, without his own image present. He also painted his own version of a vanitas painting Still Life with Open Bible, Candle, and Book (1885).

In the United States during Revolutionary times, American artists trained abroad applied European styles to American portrait painting and still life. Charles Willson Peale
Charles Willson Peale
Charles Willson Peale was an American painter, soldier and naturalist. He is best remembered for his portrait paintings of leading figures of the American Revolution, as well as establishing one of the first museums....

 founded a family of prominent American painters, and as major leader in the American art community, also founded a society for the training of artists as well as a famous museum of natural curiosities. His son Raphaelle Peale
Raphaelle Peale
Raphaelle Peale is considered the first professional American painter of still-life.-Biography:...

 was one of a group of early American still life artists, which also included John F. Francis
John F. Francis
John F. Francis was an American painter, primarily of still lifes.He was born in Philadelphia. Predominantly self-taught as an artist, he worked until 1845 as a portrait painter in central and eastern Pennsylvania. Francis's portraits reveal his early fascination with the most minute details...

, Charles Bird King
Charles Bird King
Charles Bird King is a United States artist who is best known for his portraiture. In particular, the artist is notable for the portraits he painted of Native American delegates coming to Washington D.C., which were commissioned by government's Bureau of Indian Affairs.-Biography:Charles Bird King...

, and John Johnston. By the second half of the 19th century, Martin Johnson Heade
Martin Johnson Heade
Martin Johnson Heade was a prolific American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, portraits of tropical birds, and still lifes...

 introduced the American version of the habitat or biotope picture, which placed flowers and birds in simulated outdoor environments. The American trompe-l'œil paintings also flourished during this period, created by John Haberle
John Haberle
John Haberle was a 19th-century American painter in the trompe l'oeil style. His still lifes of ordinary objects are painted in such a way that the painting can be mistaken for the objects themselves. He is considered one of the three major figures—together with William Harnett and John F...

, William Michael Harnett, and John Frederick Peto. Peto specialized in the nostalgic wall-rack painting while Harnett achieved the highest level of hyper-realism in his pictorial celebrations of American life through familiar objects.

Twentieth century

The first four decades of the 20th century formed an exceptional period of artistic ferment and revolution. Avant-garde movements rapidly evolved and overlapped in a march towards nonfigurative, total abstraction. The still life, as well as other representational art, continued to evolve and adjust until mid-century when total abstraction, as exemplified by Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Paul Jackson Pollock , known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety. He was regarded as a mostly reclusive artist. He had a volatile personality, and...

's drip paintings, eliminated all recognizable content.

The century began with several trends taking hold in art. In 1901, Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist. He was an important figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramist, and writer...

 painted Still Life with Sunflowers, his homage to his friend van Gogh who had died eleven years earlier. The group known as the Nabi
Nabi
Nabi may refer to:* Prophets of Islam, humans who, in the Islamic faith, have been chosen as prophets by God**Nabi * Butterfly in the Korean language** Nabi , a 2001 South Korean film** The Korean language title of Mr...

, including Pierre Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard was a French painter and printmaker, as well as a founding member of Les Nabis.-Biography:...

 and Edouard Vuillard
Édouard Vuillard
Jean-Édouard Vuillard was a French painter and printmaker associated with the Nabis.-Early years and education:...

, took up Gauguin’s harmonic theories and added elements inspired by Japanese woodcuts to their still life paintings. French artist Odilon Redon
Odilon Redon
Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon was a French symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist.-Life:...

 also painted notable still life during in this period, especially flowers.

Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter...

 reduced the rendering of still life objects even further to little more than bold, flat outlines filled with bright colors. He also simplifyied perspective and introducing multi-color backgrounds. In some of his still life paintings, such as Still Life with Eggplants, his table of objects is nearly lost amidst the other colorful patterns filling the rest of the room. Other exponents of Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism is the style of les Fauves , a short-lived and loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism...

, such as Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck was a French painter. Along with André Derain and Henri Matisse he is considered one of the principal figures in the Fauve movement, a group of modern artists who from 1904 to 1908 were united in their use of intense color.-Life:Maurice de Vlaminck was born in Paris to a family...

 and André Derain
André Derain
André Derain was a French artist, painter, sculptor and co-founder of Fauvism with Henri Matisse.-Early years:...

, further explored pure color and abstraction in their still life.

Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th...

 found in still life the perfect vehicle for his revolutionary explorations in geometric spatial organization. For Cézanne, still life was a primary means of taking painting away from an illustrative or mimetic function to one demonstrating independently the elements of color, form, and line, a major step towards Abstract art. Additionally, Cézanne's experiments can be seen as leading directly to the development of Cubist still life in the early 20th century.

Adapting Cézanne’s shifting of planes and axes, the Cubists subdued the color palette of the Fauves and focused instead on deconstructing objects into pure geometrical forms and planes. Between 1910 and 1920, Cubist artists like Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque[p] was a major 20th century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art style known as Cubism.-Early Life:...

, and Juan Gris
Juan Gris
José Victoriano González-Pérez , better known as Juan Gris, was a Spanish painter and sculptor who lived and worked in France most of his life...

 painted many still life compositions, often including musical instruments, as well as creating the first Synthetic Cubist collage
Collage
A collage is a work of formal art, primarily in the visual arts, made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole....

 works, such as Picasso's oval "Still Life with Chair Caning" (1912). In these works, still life objects overlap and intermingle barely maintaining identifiable two-dimensional forms, losing individual surface texture, and merging into the background—achieving goals nearly opposite to those of traditional still life. Fernand Léger
Fernand Léger
Joseph Fernand Henri Léger was a French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. In his early works he created a personal form of Cubism which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style...

’s still life introduced the use of abundant white space and colored, sharply defined, overlapping geometrical shapes to produce a more mechanical effect. Rejecting the flattening of space by Cubists, Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Considered by some to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art...

 and other members of the Dada
Dada
Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a...

 movement, went in a radically different direction, creating 3-D "ready-made" still life sculptures. As part of restoring some symbolic meaning to still life, the Futurists
Futurism
Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.Futurism or futurist may refer to:* Afrofuturism, an African-American and African diaspora subculture* Cubo-Futurism* Ego-Futurism...

 and the Surrealists
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

 placed recognizable still life objects in their dreamscapes. In Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Joan Miró i Ferrà was a Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona.Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride...

’s still life paintings, objects appear weightless and float in lightly suggested two-dimensional space, and even mountains are drawn as simple lines. In Italy during this time, Giorgio Morandi
Giorgio Morandi
Giorgio Morandi was an Italian painter and printmaker who specialized in still life. His paintings are noted for their tonal subtlety in depicting apparently simple subjects, which were limited mainly to vases, bottles, bowls, flowers, and landscapes.-Biography:Giorgio Morandi was born in Bologna...

 was the foremost still life painter, exploring a wide variety of approaches to depicting everyday bottles and kitchen implements. Dutch artist M. C. Escher
M. C. Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher , usually referred to as M. C. Escher , was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints...

, best known for his detailed yet ambiguous graphics, created Still life and Street (1937), his updated version of the traditional Dutch table still life.

When 20th century American artists became aware of European Modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

, they began to interpret still life subjects with a combination of American realism
American realism
300px|thumb|[[Ashcan School]] artists & friends at [[John French Sloan]]'s Philadelphia Studio, 1898American realism was an early 20th century idea in art, music and literature that showed through these different types of work, reflections of the time period...

 and Cubist-derived abstraction. Typical of the American still life works of this period are the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American artist.Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists...

, Stuart Davis
Stuart Davis (painter)
Stuart Davis , was an early American modernist painter. He was well known for his jazz influenced, proto pop art paintings of the 1940s and 1950s, bold, brash, and colorful as well as his ashcan pictures in the early years of the 20th century.-Biography:He was born in Philadelphia to Edward Wyatt...

, and Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley was an American Modernist painter, poet, and essayist.-Early life and education:Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine, where his English parents had settled. He was the youngest of nine children. His mother died when he was eight, and his father remarried four years later to Martha...

, and the photographs of Edward Weston
Edward Weston
Edward Henry Weston was a 20th century American photographer. He has been called "one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…" and "one of the masters of 20th century photography." Over the course of his forty-year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of...

. O’Keeffe’s ultra-closeup flower paintings reveal both the physical structure and the emotional subtext of petals and leaves in an unprecedented manner.
In Mexico, starting in the 1930s, Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo de Rivera was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán, and perhaps best known for her self-portraits....

 and other artists created their own brand of Surrealism, featuring native foods and cultural motifs in their still life paintings.

Starting in the 1930s, Abstract Expressionism
Abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris...

 severely reduced still life to raw depictions of form and color, until by the 1950s, total abstraction dominated the art world. However, Pop Art
Pop art
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art...

 in the 1960s and 1970s reversed the trend and created a new form of still life. Much Pop Art (such as Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andrew Warhola , known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art...

's "Campbell's Soup Cans") is based on still life, but its true subject is most often the commodified image of the commercial product represented rather than the physical still life object itself. Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein was a prominent American pop artist. During the 1960s his paintings were exhibited at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City and along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist and others he became a leading figure in the new art movement...

’s Still Life with Goldfish Bowl (1972) combines the pure colors of Matisse with the pop iconography of Warhol. Wayne Thiebaud
Wayne Thiebaud
Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter whose most famous works are of cakes, pastries, boots, toilets, toys and lipsticks. He is associated with the Pop art movement because of his interest in objects of mass culture, although his works, executed during the fifties and sixties, slightly predate...

’s Lunch Table (1964) portrays not a single family’s lunch but an assembly line of standardized American foods.

The Neo-dada movement, including Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, Jr. is an American contemporary artist who works primarily in painting and printmaking.-Life:Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns spent his early life in Allendale, South Carolina with his paternal grandparents after his parents' marriage failed...

, returned to Duchamp’s three-dimensional representation of everyday household objects to create their own brand of still life work, as in Johns’ Painted Bronze (1960) and Fool’s House (1962). Avigdor Arikha
Avigdor Arikha
Avigdor Arikha was a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, and art historian.-Biography:Avigdor Arikha was born to German-speaking Jewish parents in Rădăuţi, but grew up in Czernowitz , in Bukovina, Romania., His family faced forced deportation in 1941 to the Romanian-run concentration camps of...

, who began as an abstractionist, integrated the lessons of Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian
Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian , was a Dutch painter.He was an important contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, which was founded by Theo van Doesburg. He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism...

 into his still lifes as into his other work; while reconnecting to old master traditions, he achieved a modernist formalism
Formalism (art)
In art theory, formalism is the concept that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form--the way it is made, its purely visual aspects, and its medium. Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context, and content...

, working in one session and in natural light, through which the subject-matter often emerged in a surprising perspective.

A significant contribution to the development of still life painting in the 20th century was made by Russian artists, among them Sergei Ocipov
Sergei Ivanovich Osipov
Sergei Ivanovich Osipov was a Soviet Russian painter, graphic artist, and art teacher, lived and worked in Leningrad, a member of the Leningrad branch of Union of Artists of Russian Federation, regarded as one of the leading representatives of the Leningrad school of painting, most famous for his...

, Victor Teterin
Victor Teterin
Victor Kuzmich Teterin - Soviet, Russian painter, watercolorist, and art teacher, lived and worked in Leningrad, regarded by one art historian as one of the brightest representatives of the Leningrad school of painting.- Biography :...

, Evgenia Antipova
Evgenia Antipova
Evgenia Petrovna Antipova was a Russian and Soviet painter, watercolorist, graphic artist, and Art teacher. She lived and worked in Leningrad - Saint Petersburg and is regarded as one of the brightest representatives of the Leningrad school of painting....

, Gevork Kotiantz
Gevork Kotiantz
Gevork Vartanovich Kotiantz , - Soviet, Russian - Armenian painter, lived and worked in Leningrad, regarded as one of representatives of the Leningrad school of painting.- Biography :...

, Sergei Zakharov
Sergei Yefimovich Zakharov
Sergei Yefimovich Zakharov was a Russian Soviet painter, watercolorist, graphic artist, and interior designer, who lived and worked in Leningrad...

, Taisia Afonina
Taisia Afonina
Taisia Kirillovna Afonina |Nikolaev]], Crimea, Russian Empire - April 19, 1994, Saint Petersburg, Russia) - Soviet, Russian painter and watercolorist, lived and worked in Leningrad, a member of the Saint Petersburg Union of Artists , regarded as one of the brightest representatives of the Leningrad...

, Maya Kopitseva
Maya Kopitseva
Maya Kuzminichna Kopitseva - Soviet Russian painter, Honored Artist of the RSFSR, lived and worked in Leningrad - Saint Petersburg, a member of the Saint Petersburg Union of Artists , regarded as one of the major representatives of the Leningrad school of painting, most famous for her still life...

, and others.

By contrast, the rise of Photorealism
Photorealism
Photorealism is the genre of painting based on using the camera and photographs to gather information and then from this information creating a painting that appears photographic...

 in the 1970s reasserted illusionistic representation, while retaining some of Pop's message of the fusion of object, image, and commercial product. Typical in this regard are the paintings of Don Eddy
Don Eddy
Don Eddy is an American painter who gained initial fame as a photorealist; but his recent works have veered into the realm of metaphysics.In the 1970s, Eddy's works paid homage to cars and the urban cityscape...

 and Ralph Goings
Ralph Goings
Ralph Goings is an American painter closely associated with the Photorealism movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s...

.

21st century

In the last three decades of the 20th century, and in the early years of the 21st century still life has expanded beyond the boundary of a frame. Especially in the wake of the computer age, and the rise of Computer art
Computer art
Computer art is any art in which computers play a role in production or display of the artwork. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, videogame, web site, algorithm, performance or gallery installation...

 and Digital art
Digital art
Digital art is a general term for a range of artistic works and practices that use digital technology as an essential part of the creative and/or presentation process...

 the nature and definition of still life has changed. Some mixed media still life work employing found objects, photography, video, and sound, and even spilling out from ceiling to floor, and filling an entire room in a gallery. Computer-generated graphics have expanded the techniques available to still life artists. With the use of the video camera, still life artists can even incorporate the viewer into their work.

See also

  • Digital illustration
    Digital illustration
    Computer illustration or digital illustration is the use of digital tools to produce images under the direct manipulation of the artist, usually through a pointing device such as a tablet or a mouse. It is distinguished from computer-generated art, which is produced by a computer using mathematical...

  • Digital painting
    Digital painting
    Digital painting is an emerging art form in which traditional painting techniques such as watercolor, oils, impasto, etc. are applied using digital tools by means of a computer, a digitizing tablet and stylus, and software. Traditional painting is painting with a physical medium as opposed to a...

  • Digital photography
    Digital photography
    Digital photography is a form of photography that uses an array of light sensitive sensors to capture the image focused by the lens, as opposed to an exposure on light sensitive film...

  • Dutch Golden Age painting
    Dutch Golden Age painting
    Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade,...

  • Electronic art
    Electronic art
    Electronic art is a form of art that makes use of electronic media or, more broadly, refers to technology and/or electronic media. It is related to information art, new media art, video art, digital art, interactive art, internet art, and electronic music...

  • Graphic art software
  • History of painting
    History of painting
    The history of painting reaches back in time to artifacts from pre-historic humans, and spans all cultures. It represents a continuous, though periodically disrupted tradition from Antiquity. Across cultures, and spanning continents and millennia, the history of painting is an ongoing river of...

  • List of Dutch painters
  • New media
    New media
    New media is a broad term in media studies that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century. For example, new media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content any time, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community...

  • Software art
    Software art
    Software art refers to works of art where the creation of software, or concepts from software, play an important role; for example software applications which were created by artists and which were intended as artworks. As an artistic discipline software art has attained growing attention since the...

  • Still life photography
    Still life photography
    Still life photography is the depiction of inanimate subject matter, most typically a small grouping of objects. Still life photography, more so than other types of photography, such as landscape or portraiture, gives the photographer more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within a...

  • Tradigital art
    Tradigital art
    Tradigital art most commonly refers to art that combines both traditional and computer-based techniques to implicate an image. It is related to digital art, traditional art, information art, new media art, video art, interactive art, and internet art.-Background:Artist and teacher Judith Moncrieff...

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