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Still Life

Still Life is what it says on the tin - Still Life. Usually painting everyday commonplace objects - fruit, bowls, bottles, food, wine, fabric, flowers, and other household objects, often arranged on a table.  These are all fundamental to both the object and subject of the still life painting, drawing or print.

Still life paintings or prints usually depict everyday commonplace objects - fruit, bowls, bottles, food, wine, fabric, flowers and other household objects, often arranged on a table. Historically executed using oil paint, the still life demonstrated highly skilled artistry in the depiction of shape and light, colour and texture, created by the handing of the paint, whether precise and layered or loose impasto. 

Famously, the Dutch were at the forefront of this genre in the 17th century, with still life paintings highly valued by rising entrepreneurs and traders who wished to celebrate the material world as a declaration of personal wealth as Europe moved into urbanisation. Conversely, the ephemeral nature of consumerism and indeed life itself was symbolised in a particular form of still life known as vanitas. This critique on human vanity and worldly pleasures featured human skulls, candles, clocks, withering fruit or flowers and dead animals and fish, acting as memento mori, reminders of the inevitability of death and decay.

From Cezanne onwards, artists have chosen to jettison much of this loaded history, using still life to project their own formal or informal considerations with seeing and doing. Is it an apple or a sphere? Breaking with the tradition of a dark background, the Impressionists reinterpreted the still life with a bold use of colour. 

Surrealism, hyperrealism and Pop artists such as Andy Warhol all developed and redefined the still life. More recently, the genre has been turned on its head with the likes of Damien Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’ (2007), a diamond-encrusted scull, or Ori Gersht’s photographic and video works that capture on camera exploding replicas of still lifes based on famous paintings by Henri Fantin-Latour painting and Jean-Siméon Chardin. The weird and wonderful is as much a part of still life as history painting. It is an endless genre to explore and enjoy, with many artists cutting their teeth by experimenting with the still life.



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Water Street Gallery 4.8 / 5 - 40 Reviews @ Google Customer Reviews
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