Still-lifes are subjects representing inanimate objects such as fruit, flowers or dead animals. The term "Still-life" appeared in France in the 18th Century, while Diderot spoke of "Inanimate nature".
The first Still-lifes date from Antiquity. The paintings did not stand the test of time, but some descriptions are remaining. These Still-lifes entailed Epicurean allusion since they often represented dishes ready to be eaten.
Then, during the Middle Ages, the representations of objects disappeared in favor of religious themes. Biblical scenes gained importance in art and it gave more importance to the symbol than to the object itself. We can therefore consider that there is no Still-life during this time.
From the 16th Century, but especially the 17th Century reborn Still-life as we know it today. Flemish and Dutch schools are the first to represent the reality bluntly, followed by the rest of Europe, especially France. "Still Life with a Peeled Lemon" painted by De Heem is a perfect example of this time: fruit, an oyster, a stemmed glass containing white wine.
But Still-lifes can also represent dead animals, as it is the case for example in "Still-Life with Pheasant" by Oudry or in "Still-life with Lobster" by Heda.
Finally, Still-life may also be limited to flowers, as is the case for "Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers" by Van Gogh who painted of a bouquet of sunflowers. Other artists such as Cézanne, Baugin, Baccioni or even Kikoine were supporters of Still-lifes.
An art genre which has existed since antiquity, Still-lifes became popular again in 17th century European painting.
Depicting inanimate objects, compositions might be confined to a meal on a table, as in Lubin’s frugal "Still-Life with Water Biscuits", or portray hunted animals as in the "Still-Life with Pheasant" by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. You will also find famous Still-lifes by Chardin, Cézanne and Van Gogh.
Enjoy your visit!
Lubin Baugin: "Still-Life with Wafer Biscuits" (c.1630, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Jan Davidsz De Heem: "Still-Life with a Peeled Lemon" (c.1650, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Willem Claesz Heda: "Still-Life With Lobster" (c. 1650-59, National Gallery, London)
Jean-Baptiste Oudry: "Still-Life with Pheasant" (1753, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin: "Still-Life with Jar of Olives" (1760, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Anne Vallayer-Coster: "Still-Life With Attributes of the Arts" (1769, Musée du Louvre - Louvre Museum, Paris)
Paul Cézanne: "Apples and Biscuits" (c.1880, Musée de l'Orangerie - Orangerie Museum, Paris)
Vincent Van Gogh: "Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers" (1888, National Gallery, London)
Umberto Baccioni: "Still-Life with Bottle" (1912, Centre Pompidou - Pompidou Center, Paris)
Michel Kikoine: "Still-life with Pheasant" (1950, Centre Pompidou - Pompidou Center, Paris)