Born in 1931 in New York City, Audrey Flack’s adulthood was defined by Civil Rights Movements and Second-wave feminism. Her painterly work reflects on these social conditions. Her still life paintings include depictions of jewelry, perfume bottles, lipstick tubes and other paraphernalia of femininity. Done in Photorealist style, these paintings still provoke debates of whether she represented femininity, if these works show feminist stance, or both at the same instance.

Leading artists of contemporary time are reviving the still life, a genre that once was more associated with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Old Masters than with contemporary art. The audacious still lifes celebrated here challenge that historical supremacy and redefine what it means to be a work of nature morte (literally translated from the French: “dead nature”). Whether through painting, drawing, sculpture, video, or other media, contemporary artists have drawn on the centuries-old tradition to create works of conceptual vivacity, beauty, and emotional poignancy in the present time.Structured according to the classical categories of the still-life tradition – Flora, Food, House and Home, Fauna, and Death, each chapter in Michael Petry’s book explores how the timeless symbolic resonance of the memento mori, has been rediscovered for a new millennium.

Representing mundane objects such as bowls, flowers, foodstuffs, and other things found in a common household, was and still is the main preoccupation of still life artists. However, the means, styles and media in which still life can be represented varies significantly.

Continuing and deepening Cézanne’s experimentation with painterly elements, Georges Braque created his still lifes in the Cubist style, fragmenting objects in the paintings and presenting their different angles all at once. Although he started out as a Fauvist, after meeting with Pablo Picasso he soon changed his style and adopted Cubism as his main mode of expression. During his career he created numerous paintings depicting mundane subjects, and was often using collage technique in his creations.

Featured image: Paul Cézanne – Still Life with Skull, 1895-1900. Image via www.ibiblio.org

Featured image: Giorgio Morandi – Still Life, 1955. Image via arthistoryproject.com

Editors’ Tip: Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still-Life Tradition

Featured image: Arman -Athérosclérose, 1961. Image via italy24.ilsole24ore.com

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In the early 17th century still life became an independent genre in art, but it was considered less important than historical and allegorical representations of the period. Appearing as an independent genre around the Europe in the same years, it is impossible to discern who first developed and practiced it in painting. The still life genre’s beginnings can be traced in pictorial traditions around Europe, including Flemish Marian paintings created in the fifteenth century, Italian meat- stall images, and Spanish bodegas. Jean-Baptiste Chardin in the 18th century continued to develop still life painting following the success of Flemish artists. He deployed either Dutch-style realism or softer harmonies in his creations. With the development of art academies around Europe that propagated hierarchy of genres, still life slowly fall behind and was less practiced than other genre forms. However, as Neo-classicism started to fade with the rise of Romanticism and Realism, still life again became an important theme among the artists such as Francisco Goya, Gustave Courbet, and Eugène Delacroix. The next stage in the development of still life came with Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and dominance of color and light over theme.


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Deemed as a mother of American Modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe is known for her paintings of flowers and landscapes. O’Keeffe’s painted subjects, motifs and forms changed with the influence of European Modernism. Although many connected her depictions of iris flower with vulva, she rejected such Freudian interpretations. However, this did not precluded other feminist artists to refer to her as their influence, and even Judy Chicago dedicated a place of her on her Dinner Party piece.

A list of the most famous still life artists with names and images of their masterpieces. These painters bring life to the most inanimate objects, using intense color palettes and great skill. Still life artists often placed religious symbolism within their artwork, which for the most part can’t be seen at first glance. These famous still life artists are best known for their work with inanimate objects and have great skill in turning an ordinary scene into a still life masterpiece.

Still life painters are known to play with the composition of objects and negative space to develop certain looks to their work. While early still life work usually had religious themes and tones, some modern still life artists break the two-dimensional boundary and add graphic elements to their work. 

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The following list examples some of the famous still life artists of the 20th century together with their works.

In the 20th century still life was considered a theme in art abreast with others. The development of still life closely followed the stylistic changes of the period, from Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, to Pop Art and Photorealism. Still life objects even transgressed the frame of the traditional medium of painting and entered the art scene as art objects through ready-mades and installations where instead of being represented, they became artworks themselves, as in Arman’s and Judy Chicago’s works.

Featured image: Roy Lichtenstein – Still Life. Image via keyword-suggestions.com

Featured image: Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party, 1979. Image via nyclovesnyc.blogspot.rs



Pop Art is definitely a high art movement where mundane stuff got the unprecedented prominence. One of the representatives of the movement, Roy Lichtenstein, created some of the most striking examples of the type. Famous for his use of dots and comic book excerpts, Lichtenstein adopted the same approach in his still lifes.


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Featured image: Maya Kopitseva – Still Life with Bananas, 1975. Image via commons.wikimedia.org


Featured image: Andrey Flack – Jolie Madame, 1973. Image via bookslut.com

Featured image: Georges Braque – Still Life with a Bunch of Grapes, 1912. Image via wikiart.org

Which artist is a well known still life painter? If you’re interested in still life art check out this list of famous still lifes.


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Featured image: Henri Matisse – Still Life with a Pewter Jug and Pink Statuette, 1910. Image via art-matisse.com

Paul Cézanne is considered a precursor of Cubism and Modernism in general. His analytical approach to form, lines and color often led him to create his images from fragmentary brushstrokes that will be further exploited by Cubists. In his still life painting, fruits, pitchers, and bottles are laid on corrugated tablecloths and often situated to resemble being one above the other. Instead of creating a realist effect through the illusion of depth, Cézanne experimented with painterly elements. Thus, it comes as no surprise that he was called “the father of us all” by many modernists.

More than just a leader of Fauvist movement with André Derain, Henri Matisse is considered one of the key figures of the 20th century Modernism. Still Life with a Pewter Jug and Pink Statuette is from his Fauvist period where bright colors and linear style create a dynamic composition featuring one of the artist’s sculptures. Created in a rented house at Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, the painting shows the wall of his studio, which will appear in numerous paintings from this period. Fauvism gave primacy to expression and color over realistic renderings of the world, and in Matisse’s still lifes such tendency is evident. Colors usually do not correspond with the factual situation, which makes his still life paintings among the first modernist ones of the 20th century.

Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party is considered one of the most significant works of 20th century art. Although it is not made in traditional technique for the genre, this installation refers to both tradition of still life paintings and more importantly to the historical marginalization of women. Table is set for 39 famous women, and each place-setting has a unique hand – painted china plate based on vulvar and butterfly forms, embroidered runners, gold chalice and utensils. The aim of this exceptional still life installation is, in Chicago’s words, to “end the ongoing cycle of omission in which women were written out of the historical record.”

Perhaps the greatest still life artist of the 20th century, Giorgio Morandi primarily focused on representations of vases, flowers, bowls, and bottles. His style moved from more Metaphsycial renderings, to a very subtle use of color which was often reduced to several gradations of hue and tone. Due to his limited palette and minimalist expression, he is considered a prescient of Minimal Art.

One of the representatives of Leningrad school of painting and Meritorious Artist of the Soviet Union, Maya Kopitseva is famous for her still lifes where she was inspired by colors and textures of fruits, dishes and other objects found in a kitchen. She created expressive color renderings of these objects where play with complementary and contrasting colors is given dominance over subject.

Featured image: Georgia O’Keeffe – Oriental Poppies, 1927. Image via theredlist.com

Armand Fernandez, or just Arman, is a French artist who started out as a painter using traces of ink and paint left by different objects on his works, to later transfer his interest from painterly effects to the objects themselves. A member of Nouveau réalisme, Arman is best known for his Accumulations – polyester castings filled with different found stuff, from cutlery, shoes, and clocks, to perfume bottles and even gas masks. Accumulations resemble traditional still life paintings with a difference that found stuff here is not represented but literary present in its plastic cage.

Over the centuries artists have chosen the subject of still life for a variety of reasons: to reflect the status of their owner, be it humble or haughty; for their symbolic meaning which reveals a hidden story or idea; to capture the natural beauty of transient object like a flower or fruit; to demonstrate the artist’s skilled painting technique; or as a controlled structure to express the abstract qualities of the visual elements.

Traditionally, still life is the drawing and painting of items such as fruit, flowers and household objects, which are usually arranged on a table top. Willem Kalf painted still lifes which reflected the opulent lifestyle and status of their owner.

Harmen Steenwyck illustrated objects that communicated a hidden message to the viewer. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin showed us that there is great beauty in the humble household objects that surround us.

Henri Matisse intensified our experience of fruit, flowers and exotic artifacts with his expressive use of colour. Juan Gris used still life to experiment with the way we perceive objects in space and time.

Giorgio Morandi creates calm, sensitive still lifes which are the product of deep contemplation and observation over a considerable period of time. Still life as a subject has provided a platform for artists of different eras to explore their relationship with the world of objects that surround us.

As our world evolves, new products, artefacts and modern media will continue to suggest new avenues for the stylistic development and reinvention of still life as a subject in art.

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