Still life is a genre of the 17th century that holds significant cultural weight because, although absent of human subjects, it reminds us of our profound humanity. From natural objects like flowers to fruits, bowls, wine, and more, still life paintings contain the ephemera of our existence.
In the Art of Antiquity
The origins of the still life genre come from a storied past. It has traveled from the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs and the walls of Pompeii into the present day. The board of inspiration was long and wide for the first still life artists, and almost any object, animate or dead, became a talking point of their art. Religious symbols, universal reflections, and items of luxury were just some of the motifs explored by still life artists.
The earliest artists of the genre, whose origins lie in Northern Europe, frequently made religious references in their work, such as lilies to represent the purity of the Virgin Mary. The early still lifes contained meaningful morality, and often incorporated concepts of vanity and temperance, among other concepts relating to the human condition.
In the Art of Modernity
The still life genre in modern art has moved passed the mundane to encapsulate more thematic elements and visually compelling subject matter, such as this exhibit devoted to the examination of objects of desire. Time and Time: Blow up No. 3 by Israeli artist Ori Gersht, another example, captures in photograph the explosion of a floral arrangement. In his paintings, a destructive yet poetic force is captured as movement is suddenly suspended, placing peace and violence on the same canvas and invoking a visceral reaction in the audience.
In our adult watercolor painting series, students learn the fundamentals of technique using a variety of subject matter, including those used in the still life genre. To learn more about this workshop, visit our adult classes page.