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  • Writer's pictureVishakha

Famous Still Life Paintings You Should Know About

Updated: May 29

Still life paintings have been one of the oldest genres of art. The theme is popular among artists as it allows them to meticulously place objects to their liking and then depict them on their canvas. They allow viewers to observe and appreciate inanimate objects from their day-to-day lives and see the beauty in the normal.

A still life painting of a skull, feather candle stand

It became a separate genre only in the late 16th century after Dutch and Flemish artists started painting detailed arrangements of regular household objects. Today we will cover some of the most famous still-life paintings that have been loved by viewers for centuries. 

Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio

Still Life Painting Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio

This oil painting created in 1599 is probably one of the most famous still life paintings ever created. The detailing and accuracy of this painting were truly a shock for the viewers of its time and still continue to amaze them today. The intricate play of light and shadow, also known as chiaroscuro, makes the object in the painting appear almost tangible and real. 

This masterpiece by the early Baroque artist depicts an assemblage of fruits like apples, figs, grapes, and a quince. However, if you look closely you will realize that it is a blend of fresh and decaying fruits put together. The drying leaves, infested apples, and overripe figs have been put together with an unblemished quince and decaying leaves in a wicker basket glowing with soft golden light. 

The delicate arrangement of the objects represents the beauty in the imperfections of life. The attention to detail in the painting is a testament to Caravaggio’s exemplary skills and his mastery of attaining realism in his work. 

The Basket of Apples by Paul Cézanne

Still Life Painting The Basket of Apples by Paul Cézanne

Another remarkable still life by Cézanne, The Basket of Apples, painted in 1893, showcases his ability to transform ordinary objects into extraordinary compositions. This painting features a basket filled with apples, a wine bottle, a loaf of bread, and a draped tablecloth, arranged in a seemingly casual yet carefully considered manner.

Cézanne's innovative use of perspective is particularly evident in this work. The table appears to be viewed from multiple angles simultaneously, creating a sense of dynamism and movement. The folds of the tablecloth, rendered with expressive brushstrokes, add to this effect, making the still life appear almost animated.

If you look closely, the wine bottle appears to be tilted towards the basket and is not placed upright. Similarly, the table appears tilted too, with no right angles clearly defined. Now, if you notice the stack of cookies, they appear to have been painted from different vantage points and thus placed in such an odd stack. By creating such still-life paintings, Paul Cézanne was challenging the linear perspective, heavily used in Renaissance artworks.

Sunflower in a Vase Painting Series by Vincent van Gogh

Still Life Painting Fifteen Sunflower in a Vase by Vincent van Gogh

Have you ever imagined a flower painting to become so famous that the flower becomes synonymous with the artist himself? If not, then these famous flower paintings by Vincent van Gogh are your answer. He painted them with so much zeal and saw them as his beacon of hope – he knew the paintings were special. 

These are some of his earliest works he created in Arles and are now known as visionary still-life paintings. Van Gogh created them using only three different shades of yellow and nothing else. His aim was to demonstrate the possibility of achieving finesse and harmony by using only the variations of a single color. 

Van Gogh's distinctive brushwork is evident in the bold, swirling strokes that define the petals and leaves. This technique, combined with his use of intense, saturated colors, creates a sense of movement and dynamism, making the flowers appear almost alive. Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin was so impressed with these paintings that he thought the ‘style was completely Vincent.’

Still Life with Flowers, Goblet, Dried Fruit, and Pretzels by Clara Peeters

Still Life Painting with Flowers, Goblet, Dried Fruit, and Pretzels by Clara Peeters

No still life painting discussion is complete without mentioning the queen of still life painting Clara Peeters. While the life of this artist and most of her works is still a mystery, her mastery in this genre of art cannot be ignored. You can call her a pioneering artist in this genre. 

In this specific painting, you can see the objects spread on a table in random order to give them a realistic appearance. However, experts believe that this is a meticulously arranged order to ensure no inanimate object covers the other. It is said to be one of her masterpieces where she chose to depict three tall objects, including a goblet in the center, a flower vase on the left, and a pewter jug on the right. A wide bowl is placed behind the goblet consisting of almonds, sugar candy, and other dried fruits. There is also a plate of pretzels, a single tulip, and some gold coins on the table. It’s a juxtaposition of luxury and natural objects balanced together in perfect harmony.

The painting has been created from a low vantage point, with a dark background, giving it a more realistic effect. However, what truly makes Clara Peeter’s still life paintings unparalleled is her insertion of hidden self-portraits throughout the composition. If you look closely, you can see her reflection painted thrice on the goblet and four times in a straight line on the pewter jug. It was a trend she initiated and was soon followed by other artists. The clarity of reflections and detailing make it look like the viewers can actually see her painting the piece.

Violin and Candlestick by Georges Braque

Still Life Painting Violin and Candlestick by Georges Braque

Violin and Candlestick is undoubtedly the most famous cubist still-life painting in art history. To be more precise, it is a seminal piece of art in analytical cubism. Created in 1910 Paris, this monochromatic painting was created using different tones of a single color. 

The idea of the painting was to give viewers a three-dimensional view of the objects in the painting using a two-dimensional surface. To achieve this, the artist represented the object in a multiple-point perspective. In other words, Braque segregated the known objects into smaller fragments and then compressed them together to fit on a smaller space.

The artist quoted this approach to painting as “a  technique for getting closer to the object.” The artist co-founded Cubism, a form of abstract art, with Pablo Picasso which is known to take a piece of art beyond visual representation and break its form into geometrical forms, i.e. cubes.

Taking Still Life Paintings to New Height with TERAVARNA

In the past, still life paintings were considered to be the lowest genre of art if academic hierarchy was to be considered. The skill it took to master still life was ignored and was placed at the lowest spot. However, with several artists who took the initiative to bring it to the frontlines, it has now gained a much better reputation in the art world. 

However, we at TERAVARNA, feel that this genre of art is still under-appreciated and needs to be seen in a much better light. With this goal in mind, we often conduct still life competitions from time to time, to encourage and take artists back to appreciating the regularity of these inanimate objects. Join us in this effort to give this genre its rightful place in the art world while building your own legacy with us simultaneously.

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