Ann Shelton, The Child Bride, Thistle, 2015. Courtesy of Denny Dimin Gallery.

Modern and Contemporary Still Lifes

Artists have drawn inspiration from everyday objects to create poignant still lifes since the beginning of art history, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the genre gained art market recognition. With the arrival of the French Realists and Impressionists, inanimate objects such as flowers, kitchenware, or fruits were reinforced as subjects worthy of art. The French painter Édouard Manet led this effort by dedicating one-fifth of his artistic output to still lifes, boldly claiming that the still life is “the touchstone of painting.” Later, Vincent van Gogh took the sunflower as his own personal artistic signature after creating his monumental 1888 still life, Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers. Today, playful contemporary still lifes expand upon this tradition, featuring signs of the times like iPhones, Oreo cookies, and even avocado toast. Below, discover beloved everyday objects immortalized in art, from Wayne Thiebaud’s pastel cakes to Jonas Wood’s potted succulents.

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