still life


  • [17] Later Renaissance Sixteenth century[edit] See also: Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting Though most still lifes after 1600 were relatively small paintings, a crucial
    stage in the development of the genre was the tradition, mostly centred on Antwerp, of the “monumental still life”, which were large paintings that included great spreads of still-life material with figures and often animals.

  • [43] In Spanish art, a bodegón 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.

  • 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.

  • [8] 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.

  • As well as the independent still-life subject, still-life painting encompasses other types of painting with prominent still-life elements, usually symbolic, and “images that
    rely on a multitude of still-life elements ostensibly to reproduce a ‘slice of life'”.

  • 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.

  • [citation needed] Many leading Italian artists in other genre, also produced some still-life paintings.

  • [53] Her work reveals the clear influence of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 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.

  • [citation needed] In the late Middle Ages, still-life elements, mostly flowers but also animals and sometimes inanimate objects, were painted with increasing realism in the
    borders of illuminated manuscripts, developing models and technical advances that were used by painters of larger images.

  • 15th-century Early Netherlandish painting had developed highly illusionistic techniques in both panel painting and illuminated manuscripts, where the borders often featured
    elaborate displays of flowers, insects and, in a work like the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, a great variety of objects.

  • [citation needed] 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 colour and form, displaying everyday foods.

  • [13] Among the first to break free of religious meaning were Leonardo da Vinci, who created watercolour studies of fruit (around 1495) as part of his restless examination
    of nature, and Albrecht Dürer who also made precise coloured drawings of flora and fauna.

  • [15] 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

  • Live ones are considered animal art, although in practice they were often painted from dead models.

  • Dutch and Flemish painting[edit] Further information: Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting Willem Kalf (1619–1693), oil on canvas, The J. Paul Getty Museum
    Pieter Claesz (1597–1660), Still life with Musical Instruments (1623) Still life developed as a separate category in the Low Countries in the last quarter of the 16th century.

  • 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.

  • German still life followed closely the Dutch models; Georg Flegel 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.

  • [19] One of the relatively few Italian works in the style, Annibale Carracci’s treatment of the same subject in 1583, Butcher’s Shop, begins to remove the moral messages,
    as did other “kitchen and market” still-life paintings of this period.

  • On the other hand, successful Italian still-life artists found ample patronage in their day.

  • [35] A special genre of still life was the so-called pronkstilleven (Dutch for ‘ostentatious still life’).

  • [37] 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.

  • [7] The popular appreciation of the realism of still-life painting is related in the ancient Greek legend of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, who are said to have once competed to create
    the most lifelike objects, history’s earliest descriptions of trompe-l’œil painting.

  • [39] 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.

  • One change was a new enthusiasm among French painters, who now form a large proportion of the most notable artists, while the English remained content to import.

  • [12] Painters like Jan van Eyck often used still-life elements as part of an iconographic program.

  • [47] These were among many still-life paintings in the cardinal’s collection, in addition to his large collection of curios.

  • The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, probably made in Utrecht around 1440, is one of the outstanding examples of this trend, with borders featuring an extraordinary range of
    objects, including coins and fishing-nets, chosen to complement the text or main image at that particular point.

  • [16] Jacopo de’ Barbari went a step further with his Still Life with Partridge and Gauntlets (1504), among the earliest signed and dated trompe-l’œil still-life paintings,
    which contains minimal religious content.

  • [30] 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.

  • Still-life painting in Spain, also called bodegones, was austere.

  • [23] 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.

  • [1] With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greco-Roman art, still-life painting emerged as a distinct genre and professional specialization in Western painting by the
    late 16th century, and has remained significant since then.

  • One advantage of the still-life artform is that it allows an artist much freedom to experiment with the arrangement of elements within a composition of a painting.

  • [4] Similar still life, more simply decorative in intent, but with realistic perspective, have also been found in the Roman wall paintings and floor mosaics unearthed at Pompeii,
    Herculaneum and the Villa Boscoreale, including the later familiar motif of a glass bowl of fruit.

  • [8] As Pliny the Elder recorded in ancient Roman times, Greek artists centuries earlier were already advanced in the arts of portrait painting, genre painting and still life.

  • Jean-Baptiste Chardin painted small and simple assemblies of food and objects in a most subtle style that both built on the Dutch Golden Age masters, and was to be very influential
    on 19th-century compositions.

  • [6] These vanitas images have been re-interpreted through the last 400 years of art history, starting with Dutch painters around 1600.

  • 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.

  • The term includes the painting of dead animals, especially game.

  • Early still-life paintings, particularly before 1700, often contained religious and allegorical symbolism relating to the objects depicted.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • [10] 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.

  • [citation needed] 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.

  • [citation needed] Sixteenth-century paintings Pieter Aertsen, A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms (1551), 123.3 × 150 cm (48.5 × 59″) Annibale Carracci (1560–1609),
    Butcher’s Shop (1580) Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560–1627), Still life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, oil on canvas, 69 × 84.5 cm Giovanni Ambrogio Figino, Metal Plate with Peaches and Vine Leaves (1591–94), panel, 21 × 30 cm, his only
    known still life Seventeenth century Prominent Academicians of the early 17th century, such as Andrea Sacchi, felt that genre and still-life painting did not carry the “gravitas” merited for painting to be considered great.

  • [48] 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.

  • The tradition of still-life painting appears to have started and was far more popular in the contemporary Low Countries, today Belgium and Netherlands (then Flemish and Dutch
    artists), than it ever was in southern Europe.

  • [31] 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 colour, arranging, brushwork, preparation of specimens, harmony, composition, perspective, etc.

  • 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’s drip paintings,
    eliminated all recognizable content.

  • [22] The horticultural explosion was of widespread interest in Europe and artist capitalized on that to produce thousands of still-life paintings.

  • [33] Flemish and 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”).

  • [29] 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—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.

  • A small religious scene can often be made out in the distance, or a theme such as the Four Seasons is added to elevate the subject.

  • Dead game subjects continued to be popular, especially for hunting lodges; most specialists also painted live animal subjects.

  • 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.

  • [citation needed] The century began with several trends taking hold in art.

  • [9] Another step toward the autonomous still life was the painting of symbolic flowers in vases on the back of secular portraits around 1475.

  • [49] In Catholic Italy and Spain, the pure vanitas painting was rare, and there were far fewer still-life specialists.

  • Treck (1606–1652), Still Life Pewter Jug and Two Porcelain Plates (1645) Lubin Baugin (c. 1610–1663), Le Dessert de gaufrettes (c. 1631), Musée du Louvre, Paris Another type
    of still life, known as ontbijtjes or “breakfast paintings”, represent both a literal presentation of delicacies that the upper class might enjoy and a religious reminder to avoid gluttony.

  • The tradition continued into the next century, with several works by Rubens, who mostly sub-contracted the still-life and animal elements to specialist masters such as Frans
    Snyders and his pupil Jan Fyt.

  • 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.

  • Still life, as a particular genre, began with Netherlandish painting of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the English term still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven.

  • His Basket of Fruit (c. 1595–1600) is one of the first examples of pure still life, precisely rendered and set at eye level.

  • The paintings were collaborations between two specialists: a still life and a figure painter.

  • [citation needed] The development of oil painting technique by Jan van Eyck 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 colours.

  • Gothic millefleur tapestries are another example of the general increasing interest in accurate depictions of plants and animals.

  • This interaction between art and nature was quite common in Dutch, Flemish and French still lifes.


Works Cited

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Photo credit:’]