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Still life

What is a still life? The English name of this genre originated from the Dutch compound stilleven, which consists of two stems stil (still, motionless, silent) and leven (life). Objects of still life, that once inspired artists, came to us as motionless images on canvas. Flowers, fruits, cooked food, fish on dishes, hunting trophies, which soon have to become a dish – all these indispensable attributes of human life were most often depicted in still life paintings. Such artworks were usually bought as decoration of the house, dining room for instance.

Still life painting enjoyed its peak in the Holland of the XVII century. This era is called the golden age of Dutch painting.

Artists of this genre seem to have created its trends on purpose, so that it can serve all strata of society, from a housewife to a professor. In the city of Leiden, famous for its university, appeared the academic still-life, an intellectual sub-genre of this art.

To understand the message of the paintings, an art lover must have certain intellectual and cultural knowledge, as the artworks contain biblical allusions, allegories and symbolism. Some pictures of this trend create the effect of illusion.

There were also such types of still life as a still life with flowers, Breakfast and Served tables still lifes, a fish still life, tonal still life, hunting and luxury still lifes.

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Famous still life paintings

Willem Kalf is a Dutch master of still life of the XVII century. He managed to create a new form of still life with tableware items (bottles, glasses, plates) made of light-reflecting materials such as glass, silver and gold. He also achieved excellence in the genre of luxury still life.

Jan Davidsz de Heem is an artist, famous for his still lifes with wine in glasses, grapes and fruits. He painted pictures with flowers in vases, butterflies and insects. By means of a well-chosen color palette the artist created the effect of transparency of images. So the objects of his artworks look alive and realistic.

Willem van Aalst is an outstanding painter and a brilliant master of coloristics. His still life oil paintings depict fabrics, metals, feathers of birds with subtle artistry.

Blue velvet, the artist’s particular love, is often found in his artworks. He is also known for creating still lifes with fruits, flowers, and hunting still lifes.

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Still life art

The artists who created still life art, both in the heyday of this genre and later, did not confine themselves to still life. They filled their artworks with philosophical and existential ideas, pondering on the fragility and transience of life, on the secrets of nature and the interrelationships between the material and spiritual world.

Paintings in the genre of modern still life can be purchased on the Jose Art Gallery website.

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