For this Research point I have been exploring the Genre of Still Life and its Traditional approaches by 16th Century and 17th Century Dutch painters, its interpretation by artists like Paul Cezanne and the modernist artists like the Cubists, Picasso and Braque. Finally looking at artists and their interpretation in the 21st Century. Still Life is a form of art which focuses on painting everyday non-living objects which can be man-made or natural in a chosen composition.
The Genre has gone through many changes over the years and was around long before the 16th Century, its population increasing in early 17th Century and the use of oil on canvas meant paintings could be perfected giving more detail, helping with the charm of Still Life at that time.
In the 1500’s Still Life appeared in documents and panel paintings, many being realistic and of religious nature and others being of morality and self-restraint.
The moralistic painting continued into the 1600’s as with Vanitas painting which flourished in the Netherlands and gave a message to its viewer depicting how earthly pleasures, vanity and achievements were short-lived, as opposed to Christian values which were permanent. These paintings depicted symbolic items for art, science, wealth, power, pleasures and death. Skulls were used as one symbol of death, this I found the most gruesome of the symbols used, others being burning candles, soap bubbles, flowers and clocks.
This Vanitas Still Life shows a Skull, and symbols often used in this type of art, the painter Pieter Claesz was said to be one of the most significant Still Life painters of the Century this beautifully painted picture shows what a master of his craft he was.
Breakfast painting was also popular at this time depicting food and as with paintings of the time, these were painted in very realistic forms
Pieter Claesz was also known for his Breakfast Painting shown in this picture below.
I find the clarity and shine of the glass in this painting astounding.
Botanical painting also flourished coinciding with developing trade, the population became more affluent and Botanical Still Life featured prominently, as its popularity increased it was used in the homes of the growing number of the middle classes for decoration, one of the painted flowers of the time was the Tulip, which had been first imported into Holland in the 16th Century.
This image shows a realistic Botanical Painting of the time painted by artist Rachel Ruysch. She was thought to be one of the most popular artists of that time. The details and colours are amazing, a semi-wild look to the display of flowers gives it a less formal quality, which seems to draw the eye into the picture and its exceptional detail.
With the invention of the Camera artists began to move away from realism. Paul Cezanne in the 19th Century painted a more abstract form of Still Life, he concentrated on colour, shape, paint application and perspective, realism were not as important. He viewed his subjects from different angles, and was said to be a great influence to Picasso and Braque with regards Cubism.
This still life of apples and biscuits shows Paul Cezanne’s use of abstract objects and colour. The beauty for me of this is its rustic nature, though it looks a simple painting, there must have been a lot of work and thought getting the picture to work well and appeal to the viewer. It does not have the photo realistic appearance of the earlier artwork above.
In the 20th Century Cubism was born and objects were not painted in perspective and from various focal points. Often it was difficult to determine the objects within these pictures. Looking at the cubist still life I feel they are rather like my Mother who has Alzheimer’s describes seeing things muddled and not in perspective. It confuses my eye and I am not altogether sure I like these paintings. Colour was not always seen as important.
This painting by Pablo Picasso is Titled Bottle of Rum, I cant see the bottle myself but actually find the shape, form and colour very pleasing.
This painting titled Candlestick and Playing Cards on a Table by Georges Braque. I can see the playing cards again the colour is very muted and although pleasing to the eye with its form and colour, I find it confuses my brain.
Cubism was embraced by others, this painting by Jean Metzinger shows subject matter which is a little more recognisable to me.
Comparing the above styles with the 21st Century, makes me feel that anything goes and there are very few boundaries, various medias are used, not just media the method and style, which can be 3d, digital, and photographic, the composition can range from traditional to any other chosen depiction without restraint.
I have looked at various examples of a different modern day Still Life but felt these examples below were good examples. The first one Mat Collishaw who is among other things a Photographer
His depiction of a last meal is beautifully done, even if the subject is a little gruesome. The food used within this picture gives it a certain date but its portrayal give me the feel of the Vanitas paintings of the 1600’s.
Marc Quinn is known for his Still Life Sculpture as shown within the link below.
The detail in this huge shell is amazing, the shells contours like waves on a beach depict the shell in its discarded form, not as a home for its former resident but almost as a monument to life and death.
Liedtke, W. (2015, March 30). Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved from The Metropolitan Museum of Art History: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm
Robinson, L. (2015, March 30th). Rysch, Flower Still-Life. Retrieved from KhanAcadaemy: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/monarchy-enlightenment/baroque-art1/holland/a/ruysch-flower-still-life
Still Life Painting. (2015, March 30). Retrieved from Encyclopedea of Art Education: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/still-life-painting.htm#history
Vanitas. (2015, March 30th). Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/623056/vanitas
Pieter Claesz: Master Of Haarlem Still (2015, March 30th) Retrieved from Exhibitions National Gallery of Art. https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/claeszinfo.shtm
D K London, (2013) The Illustrated Story of Art, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.