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Still life

Although at its heart a classic subject, the still life was the preferred approach of Cézanne, the artist who paved the way for art to enter its most modern phase. From Cubism to Hyperrealism via Pop art, sculpture, and photography, almost all art forms have been at some point shown that it is still possible to breathe new life into this age old theme.

Be it completely de-structured, funny, classic, or minimalist, the contemporary still life is far from old fashioned, despite the fact that it boasts a long, celebrated history.

Let's take a closer look at this theme that recurs so often across art history… even in antiquity, Pliny had already written about a painter called Piraikos, known for his paintings of 'provisions for cooking', and the optical illusions of Zeuxis, from which it was said that birds would try to pick off the raisins because they looked so real. The conventional still life as we know it today, however, dates back to the 17th century, where it developed in Holland under strict aesthetic codes.

Generally, oils on canvas were the preferred method for representing inanimate objects of varying types (lots of fruit, fish, game…) and flowers. The colours were muted, the background a monochromic black, the atmosphere heavy, and the light at a steep diagonal angle. There were few elements but they were precisely arranged and loaded with religious symbolism.

Even though still life was never considered a genre in its own right, almost all of the great masters have tried their hand at it at some point or other. Across the 19th century, all the art movements went through a still life phase: romanticism, impressionism, symbolism… and under the brushes of Degas, Cézanne, Monet, etc., still life evolved.

Little by little, artists added colours, erased the biblical references and replaced them with everyday objects in ever greater numbers: cooking utensils, cups of coffee, gas lamps, musical instruments…

In the 20th century, modern art once more dusted off this 'boring' subject, and began to play with its strict codes. From cubism to pop art to surrealism, all of the artistic movements made their mark on still life. Bit by bit, they took it to pieces and rebuilt it, moving ever closer to the contemporary still life, which has little to do with the original genre except for its central theme.

After his separation from Olga Khokhlova in 1936, Pablo Picasso painted 'Still Life Under a Lamp' whose plastic elements suggested themes that would later be developed in his famous 'Guernica' the following year. Pale lamplight dominates the triangular composition in the centre of the canvas and the arms of the antique sculpture appear to be on the verge of falling off the table. Although the piece altogether seems to move away from the classic still life, it maintains the traditional heavy atmosphere.  

In 1956 the Catalan surrealist painter Salvador Dali painted 'Living Still Life' in his typical humorous style. The canvas – divided in two to represent night and day – shows a table on a balcony. The elements (wine, water, a pear, a knife…) are in motion, or rather levitating, as though someone has just struck the tabletop.

Artsper invites you to explore a range of contemporary still life pieces that are both traditional and surprising in our unique selection. Discover the work of Syvie Andlauer Baruch, Gonzalo Sicre, Zbigniew Wozniak, and many more… 

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Manuel Santelices, Staatsburg, Painting

Manuel Santelices

Staatsburg, 2022 12 x 9 x 0.1 inch Painting


Artur Murle, Still Life with Vase of Flowers, Painting

Artur Murle

Still Life with Vase of Flowers, 1946 22 x 29.9 x 0.1 inch Painting


Katharina Husslein, A Summer Melody, Painting

Katharina Husslein

A Summer Melody, 2022 27.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Our recommendations James Carter, Pantry, Painting

James Carter

Pantry, 1986 40.2 x 29.9 x 2 inch Painting


Sheila Ortega, Situação 3#, Painting

Sheila Ortega

Situação 3#, 2020 31.5 x 19.7 inch Painting


Our recommendations Karina Lara, Apple season, Painting

Karina Lara

Apple season, 2021 14.6 x 20.5 inch Painting


Our recommendations Lyne Seybel, Les tournesols, Painting

Lyne Seybel

Les tournesols, 1980 25.6 x 18.1 x 1.6 inch Painting


Ferran Roca Bon, Untitled, Fine Art Drawings

Ferran Roca Bon

Untitled, 1980 19.7 x 24 inch Fine Art Drawings


Joaquim Falcó, Bimbo, Painting

Joaquim Falcó

Bimbo, 2000 51.2 x 38.2 inch Painting


Karina Lara, 1 cup, Fine Art Drawings

Karina Lara

1 cup, 2022 6.9 x 6.9 inch Fine Art Drawings


Raphaël Galley, Cairn (Plouescat, Bretagne), Sculpture

Raphaël Galley

Cairn (Plouescat, Bretagne), 2020 4.7 x 4.7 x 4.7 inch Sculpture


Lisbeth Buonanno, Est homo bulla, Painting

Lisbeth Buonanno

Est homo bulla, 2022 19.7 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Our recommendations David Schab, Still Life with a Yellow Taxi, Painting

David Schab

Still Life with a Yellow Taxi, 2022 23.6 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch Painting


Dmitry Tsukan, Golden banana, Sculpture

Dmitry Tsukan

Golden banana, 2021 7.1 x 8.3 x 3.5 inch Sculpture


Maria Meltsaeva, Shall we cook gazpacho for dinner?, Painting

Maria Meltsaeva

Shall we cook gazpacho for dinner?, 2021 19.7 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch Painting


Jean-Christophe Béchet, Jura, Photography

Jean-Christophe Béchet

Jura, 2021 15.7 x 11.8 x 0 inch Photography


Natalia Zastavna, Untitled, Painting

Natalia Zastavna

Untitled, 2022 39.4 x 27.6 x 0.8 inch Painting


Dominique Rayou, Impermanance Cambrée 87 cm, Sculpture

Dominique Rayou

Impermanance Cambrée 87 cm, 2021 34.3 x 11.8 x 11.4 inch Sculpture


Alex Hodge, Charming Snakes Ceramic Vase, Sculpture

Alex Hodge

Charming Snakes Ceramic Vase, 2010 7 x 4.5 x 2 inch Sculpture


Felisa Esteban - Maifx, Botijos, Print

Felisa Esteban - Maifx

Botijos, 1990 22 x 12.2 x 0.4 inch Print


Josè Guevara, Still Life, Print

Josè Guevara

Still Life, 1980 27.6 x 39.4 x 0.1 inch Print


Zhang Wei Guang, Still Life with Apples, Painting

Zhang Wei Guang

Still Life with Apples, 2000 11.4 x 15 x 0.1 inch Painting


Our recommendations James Carter, Simple magic, Print

James Carter

Simple magic, 1986 22.4 x 29.9 inch Print


Luigi Servolini, Still Life, Print

Luigi Servolini

Still Life, 1950 27.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch Print


Adriano Bernetti da Vila, Mimosa 4, Painting

Adriano Bernetti da Vila

Mimosa 4, 2018 23.6 x 31.5 x 1.8 inch Painting


Laurence Gasior, Azalée, Painting

Laurence Gasior

Azalée, 2020 21.7 x 18.1 x 0.8 inch Painting


Ovidiu Kloska, Kafkian Eternity With Flowers At 7 Pm : Eternity, Painting

Ovidiu Kloska

Kafkian Eternity With Flowers At 7 Pm : Eternity, 2022 31.5 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch Painting


James Zamora, Wine Aisle No. 11, Painting

James Zamora

Wine Aisle No. 11, 2022 20 x 16 inch Painting


Stéphane Belzère, Bocaux anatomiques n°29, Painting

Stéphane Belzère

Bocaux anatomiques n°29, 1998 19.7 x 39.4 inch Painting


Piment Martin, La Provence - Reproduction digigraphie, Print

Piment Martin

La Provence - Reproduction digigraphie, 2021 27.6 x 19.7 inch Print


Zhivko Mutafchiev, On the old quay, Painting

Zhivko Mutafchiev

On the old quay, 2019 37.4 x 47.2 x 1 inch Painting


Armando Orfeo, Card Game, Painting

Armando Orfeo

Card Game, 1999 13.8 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Anna Bessonova, Pink Rose, Painting

Anna Bessonova

Pink Rose, 2022 31.5 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Jean-Claude Bligny, Paix dans la lumière, Painting

Jean-Claude Bligny

Paix dans la lumière, 2015 39.4 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch Painting


John Traynor, Hydrangeas on the Table, Painting

John Traynor

Hydrangeas on the Table, 1989 20 x 24 x 1.5 inch Painting


Olga Ray, Kitchen Still Life, Painting

Olga Ray

Kitchen Still Life, 2015 15.75 x 15.75 x 1 inch Painting


Susan Schamp, Blue Cat, Painting

Susan Schamp

Blue Cat, 1980 41 x 27 x 1 inch Painting


Gayle Wettingfield, Still Life with Pears and Pineapples, Painting

Gayle Wettingfield

Still Life with Pears and Pineapples, 2005 28 x 24 x 1 inch Painting


The Dotmaster, Tea, Print

The Dotmaster

Tea, 2013 14.4 x 22.4 x 0.2 inch Print


Dominique Mulhem, Boots au repos, Painting

Dominique Mulhem

Boots au repos, 2015 7.5 x 9.4 x 0.4 inch Painting


Su Yu, Flowers and Fruits, Print

Su Yu

Flowers and Fruits, 2022 11.8 x 7.9 x 0 inch Print


Su Yu, No Ruler, Painting

Su Yu

No Ruler, 2022 23.6 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch Painting


Ed Ruscha, Paris Review (Anchor in Sand), Print

Ed Ruscha

Paris Review (Anchor in Sand), 1991 21 x 32 x 0.2 inch Print


Dmitry Tsukan, Pomegranate, Painting

Dmitry Tsukan

Pomegranate, 2022 15.7 x 15.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Gregory Hull, Very large still life with sterling, Painting

Gregory Hull

Very large still life with sterling, 2010 40 x 50 x 1 inch Painting


Mun-Hyun Cho, Landscape with a Moon Jar, Painting

Mun-Hyun Cho

Landscape with a Moon Jar, 2020 29.5 x 53.1 x 1.2 inch Painting


Mario Avati, Le carte du petit Martin, Print

Mario Avati

Le carte du petit Martin, 1980 15 x 18.9 x 0 inch Print


Annapiai Antonin, Il canoletto, Print

Annapiai Antonin

Il canoletto, 1975 19.7 x 20.9 inch Print


Our recommendations Graeme Smallfield, Enamel 2, Painting

Graeme Smallfield

Enamel 2, 2020 22.8 x 36.2 inch Painting


Pierrick Allemand, Le Sud, Painting

Pierrick Allemand

Le Sud, 2022 36.2 x 28.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Agnieszka Staak-Janczarska, Sculptures, Painting

Agnieszka Staak-Janczarska

Sculptures, 2021 9.8 x 9.8 x 1 inch Painting


Isabelle Hirtzig, Flowers for Lara, Painting

Isabelle Hirtzig

Flowers for Lara, 2022 19.7 x 15.7 x 0.1 inch Painting


Graziella, Cédrats, Painting


Cédrats, 2018 15.7 x 15.7 x 0.8 inch Painting


Tako Chanchaleishvili, Decoration, Fine Art Drawings

Tako Chanchaleishvili

Decoration, 2020 7.9 x 16.1 x 0 inch Fine Art Drawings


Tako Chanchaleishvili, Retro, Painting

Tako Chanchaleishvili

Retro, 2000 18.1 x 23 x 0.8 inch Painting


Franz Gedhard Lins, Fleurs en vase, Painting

Franz Gedhard Lins

Fleurs en vase, 1921 14.2 x 11.2 x 0.8 inch Painting


E. Korotkov, The fruits of autumn, Painting

E. Korotkov

The fruits of autumn, 2021 8 x 10 x 1 inch Painting


Marion Tivital, Nature morte 42, Painting

Marion Tivital

Nature morte 42, 2020 15.7 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch Painting


Andrew Blauschild, Ghostboard #1, Photography

Andrew Blauschild

Ghostboard #1, 2019 24 x 42 inch Photography


Antonio Nunziante, Allegoria, Painting

Antonio Nunziante

Allegoria, 1995 19.9 x 15.9 x 0.4 inch Painting


Ludwig Mannhalter, Nr 33, Painting

Ludwig Mannhalter

Nr 33, 2022 19.7 x 27.6 x 1.2 inch Painting


Angélo Pierlo, Le chat rouge - Reproduction digigraphie, Print

Angélo Pierlo

Le chat rouge - Reproduction digigraphie, 2021 15.7 x 11.8 inch Print


Robert Durham, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Painting

Robert Durham

You Can Leave Your Hat On, 2005 36 x 24 x 1 inch Painting


Sardor Erkinov, Eva chair, Painting

Sardor Erkinov

Eva chair, 2022 35.4 x 35.4 inch Painting


Iconographia, Nature morte aux iris et aux tulipes, détail, Photography


Nature morte aux iris et aux tulipes, détail, 2022 23.6 x 15.7 inch Photography


Jay Chung, Entropy Series No. 01, Painting

Jay Chung

Entropy Series No. 01, 2022 56 x 70 x 1.5 inch Painting


Ambraude, Pause florale, Painting


Pause florale, 2010 38.2 x 51.2 x 0.8 inch Painting


Gunner Dongieux, Atrocity Exhibition, Painting

Gunner Dongieux

Atrocity Exhibition, 2016 10 x 8 x 1 inch Painting


Volker Kühn, Hommage à Appel, Sculpture

Volker Kühn

Hommage à Appel, 2017 18.9 x 14.2 x 3.9 inch Sculpture


Antoine Gamard, No milk today, Painting

Antoine Gamard

No milk today, 2022 47.2 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch Painting


Zedsy, Reduced Soup Can, Print


Reduced Soup Can, 1980 19.7 x 14.2 x 0.8 inch Print


Our recommendations Yrjö Edelmann, Two parcels in harmonic motion, Print

Yrjö Edelmann

Two parcels in harmonic motion, 2012 21.7 x 31.9 inch Print


Pablo Echaurren, Still Life with Braque, Print

Pablo Echaurren

Still Life with Braque, 1995 39.4 x 40.6 x 0 inch Print


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