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Still Life Art
What is Still Life Painting?
In fine art, the term ‘still life’ denotes a specific genre of painting, typically comprising an arrangement of objects (traditionally flowers or kitchen utensils, but almost any household object may be included) laid out on a table.
The term is a direct translation of the Dutch word ‘Stilleven’, which was used from 1656 to describe paintings previously called simply ‘Fruit’ or ‘Flower Pieces’, or ‘Ontbijt’ (Breakfast Piece), Bancket (banquet) or Pronkstilleven pieces (from the Dutch word ‘pronk’ meaning ostentation), or if with religious overtones, in line with the new aesthetics of Protestant Reformation art – Vanitas painting.
Still-life painting was much practised in the ancient world, but thereafter declined and did not re-emerge in the history of art as an independent genre until the 16th century. As the origin of the name suggests, still-life was particularly favoured in the North of Europe, especially in Holland and Flanders, among painters of the late Northern Renaissance. This was partly due to the effects of the North European Reformation which led to a decline in religious painting among Protestant nations. Even so, there were significant schools of still-life art in Italy (especially Naples) and Spain, and to a lesser extent France, although Chardin was arguably the greatest still-life painter of the 18th century and Paul Cezanne of the 19th century. Contemporary still lifes may include a limitless range of contemporary objects, from urinals to beer cans…