Still Life


A depiction of inanimate subject matter, such as food, flowers, or tableware. Historically in the West a very popular genre of painting, still life works can be traced back to antiquity, and often provide keys to understanding cultures of different eras and regions. In the Middle Ages, still life painting was adapted to serve a religious purpose, with items like lilies, coral, and fruit playing various allegorical roles. The Dutch and Flemish Golden Age carried on the allegorical tradition in still life paintings, proving to be the most prolific time for the genre. In addition to giving new life to the opulent table settings of the Netherlandish elite, still life paintings showcased cultural advancements in botanical and scientific discoveries. The genre continued to evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it was not until the radical Modernist shift during the first half of the 20th century that still life painting took on new meaning. Cubism used the still life to question many of the assumptions of depicting objects, while photography gave still life works an entirely new vehicle.