Paul Cézanne
Still Life with Water Jug c.1892–3

by Maureen Fitzmahan

“Still life” is one of the major genres of Western art.

Traditionally, the subject matter of a still life painting. sculpture, or photograph is anything that does not move or is dead.

Still life includes

  1. All kinds of man-made or natural objects, cut flowers, fruit, vegetables, fish, game, wine.
Edward Weston

2.  Still life can be a celebration of material pleasures such as food and wine.

Vincent van Gogh. Still Life with Basket of Apples (to Lucien Pissarro), 1887

In the hierarchy of genres (or subject types) for art established in the seventeenth century by the French Academy, still life was ranked at the bottom – fifth after history painting, portraiture, genre painting (scenes of everyday life) and landscape. Still life and landscape were considered lowly because they did not involve human subject matter.

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Patrick Caulfield. Colored Still Life. 1967

(Adapted from the Tate Museums by Maureen Fitzmahan)