A Brief History of Still Life Painting

History of Still Life

Time is running out to check out “The Language of Objects” still life invitational at Principle Gallery! It is a truly fantastic show, with a range of styles and subject matter to delight every taste. We thought it’d be fun to take a super-quick look at the many centuries of history of still life painting that have influenced the remarkable work being created today.

Egyptian Roman Dutch

Did you know that the Ancient Egyptians would paint still lifes on the walls of tombs with the belief that the food and other objects would become real and available to the deceased in the afterlife? Still life paintings of food also appeared on the walls of wealthy Romans as a sign of hospitality and celebration. Fast forward to the Renaissance, and with the invention of oil painting, the Dutch began to produce a great variety of still life paintings, including not only the classic food and flowers, but also many other items of “iconography,” meaning that the objects chosen had great symbolic significance.

New Botanical Rococo

As the “New World” was discovered and travel began to acquaint Europe with a plethora of new flora and fauna throughout the world, a lot of still life began to depict these exciting new discoveries (tomatoes, pineapples, sunflowers, pumpkins, and much more!). This enthusiasm for discoveries in the sixteenth century led to a lot of botanical and other scientific illustration as well! The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries brought us Rococo still life and a new appreciation for trompe l’oeil paintings–a fascination which has still continued to this day!

Imp Cubism Photo

The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists of the nineteenth century brought a refreshing new twist to still life as they tackled the same subject matter with a fresh take on the depiction of light, shape, form, and texture. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Cubism was playing with shifting planes and multiple and simultaneous views of a scene in a way that resulted in some fascinating still life compositions. In a very large shift, the mid-twentieth century’s development of color photography influenced a rise in Photorealism, a technique often applied to still life work.

If you enjoy still life, it is certainly worth delving into some of these notable phases in art history to see the evolutions that the genre experienced! But you know what else you should definitely do if you enjoy still life? That’s right! Check out “The Language of Objects” at Principle Gallery! You can see the whole show online here, but here’s just a teaser of the wonderful variety the show has to offer:

ALBERTO Scriptorium 72
Jorge Alberto, “Scriptorium”
CONARY Ruby 72
Scott Conary, “Ruby”
oil on linen, 12 x 9 inches.
Elizabeth Floyd, “A Young Rose”
James Neil Hollingsworth, “GE Mixer”
PFEIFFER Low Hanging Fruit 72
Jacob A. Pfeiffer, “Low-Hanging Fruit”
SMITH Conformity 72
Andrea J. Smith, “Conformity”
Anthony Waichulis, “Late”

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