The artistic still life is a creative expression in which everyday elements are transformed into a composition that has transcended time and space for a long time.
what is special about an artistic still life? One of the main characteristics of this type of painting is that it gives artists much more freedom than other genres. And now, thanks to photography, it has managed to transcend in time until today.
In this post, we will see what an artistic still life is, its history, the most outstanding characteristics and types, as well as some examples of artists who made this type of work. And, of course, we have a bonus track that you will love. join us!
History of the artistic still life
To understand what an artistic still life is, it is necessary to know when this type of artwork on nature originated.
Through the Siamgodh.com portal, we can find the first examples of this pictorial genre in the tombs of ancient Egypt, which contain still life paintings depicting food and utensils typical of domestic life, such as vases full of fruit.
At that time, it was believed that such food and objects would come to life when the dead would awaken in the afterlife. That is the reason why there was a great interest in the paintings having a realistic style.
From 1300 onwards, the concept of what an artistic still life is changed a little, as it took on a religious and symbolic tinge. The objects of everyday life are represented as decorative elements of the space occupied by the protagonists of the still life paintings. In many cases, these characters were religious figures.
In the 16th century, still lifes of fruits and animals returned with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer. However, although they have their origins in classical antiquity and continued to develop during the Middle Ages, it was in the 17th century that still life paintings gained popularity in Western art.
Because the term still life was created in Spain, still life paintings are called by different names in other languages. In English, they are known as still life, which means life in silence. In French, they use the expression nature morte, which means still life.
At first, it had been considered a minor pictorial genre, compared to landscapes and portraits. But, thanks to great artists such as Francisco de Goya and Salvador Dalí, who painted still lifes, this type of oil painting began to gain a place in the contemporary artistic scene.
Since the 20th century, we can also observe a renaissance of what an artistic still life is, due to the presence of this style of painting taken to the field of photography today, in which it is known as modern photographic still life.
Now that you know a little of the history of the still life, let’s discover together what an artistic still life is.
what is an artistic still life?
Still life, also known as still life, is an oil painting in which fruits, animals, flowers or inanimate objects such as books, jewelry and coins, among others, are depicted in a given space. Usually, the setting is a home environment such as a kitchen.
Based on the use of a realistic style, an effect of serenity, well-being and harmony is produced, an essential characteristic of an artistic still life.
The splendor stage of still lifes was in the 17th century, due to the fact that these works of art on nature offered a greater freedom of composition, compared to landscapes and portraits.
Difference between still life and still life
Usually, references are made to the difference between still life and still life, although they are often used as synonyms. But, from a formal point of view, still life has a broader meaning than an artistic still life.
From a stricter perspective, still life refers to all representations in which inanimate things appear as the central focus of the painting. While what is an artistic still life would be a subgenre of still life in which the protagonists of the painting are fruits, vegetables and flowers.
In this article, we have opted for a broader definition in which still life is the same as an artistic still life.
Types of still lifes
When we talk about types of still lifes we are referring to the central elements that we can find in still life paintings.
With this premise in mind, how many types of still lifes are there? According to the Evangogh.org portal, mainly, they are the following:
Geometric still life: based on the use of simple geometric figures, associating common objects such as circles, rectangles and triangles
Realistic still life: using a realistic style, artists created simple still lifes with flowers, everyday objects or food.
Vanitas: this type of still life is very characteristic of the 17th century, in which eccentric floral arrangements were designed, in addition to using other elements such as books, jewelry, coins or musical instruments.
Now that you know the definition of artistic still life and the types, let’s get to know the characteristics of this type of oil painting.
Characteristics of an artistic still life
One of the best ways to understand what an artistic still life is is by describing the characteristics of this pictorial genre.
Among the most important characteristics of an artistic still life we can find the following:
As a general rule, when we talk about what an artistic still life is, we are referring to paintings in which no scenes, landscapes or characters are included.
The most common setting for still lifes are the rooms of a house such as the kitchen, the window sill or the dining table. The protagonists are food or plants, so we find still lifes with a basket of fruit in the center, still lifes with onions, still lifes with quinces and also still lifes in which a vase of flowers appears.
The food or objects depicted in still life paintings stand out against a background that is usually black, brown or gray. These colors are used because they do not detract from the central elements of an artistic still life.
In still life paintings we find a realistic style that stands out in the details. In some paintings we can observe the texture and color of the skin of the fruits drawn with great detail and meticulousness.
Designed essentially through oil painting techniques, nowadays they can be done through other painting techniques, so don’t limit yourself and start drawing!
Oil still lifes of famous painters
To give you a clearer idea of what an artistic still life is we are going to mention some of the oil still lifes by famous painters.
1. Basket of fruit by Caravaggio
Undoubtedly, the Basket with fruits by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is an example of what an artistic still life is in all its splendor.
It should be noted that this Italian painter was one of the first artists to depict still life. This work, created in 1596, stands out for the precision of its realistic style and excellent handling of chiaroscuro.
This oil painting depicts a wicker basket on the edge of a windowsill containing summer fruits.
2. Still Life with Cat and Stripe by Siméon Chardin
While it is true that when we think of what an artistic still life is, the first thing that comes to mind are still lifes of fruits, there are also those that are starring animals.
This is the case of the oil painting entitled Still Life with Cat and Stripe by Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin. In the 18th century, this French painter created this painting in which everyday objects such as kitchen utensils accompany the figure of a cat.
It is a domestic scene characteristic of an artistic still life. In the kitchen or dining room of a house, the pet curiously approaches a dish on the table.
3. Basket of apples by Cézanne
French painter Paul Cézannees another good example of what an artistic still life is. This oil painting, called Basket of Apples, was painted in 1890 and presents us with two points of view: the right side of the table is not on the same plane as the left side.
The protagonist objects of this still life work are, as its title says, apples that are inside a basket and then roll on the table.
4. Still life with lemons, oranges and a rose by Zurbarán
If we are going to talk about what an artistic still life is, we can’t fail to mention the oil painting Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose by Francisco de Zurbarán.
This 17th century Spanish artist was mainly devoted to still life works. Due to his precise use of the chiaroscuro technique, Zurbarán was called “the Spanish Caravaggio”.
5. Still life: vase with oleanders and books by Van Gogh
The famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, also knew the technique for making what is an artistic still life. His painting entitled Still Life: Vase with oleanders and books is proof of this.
In this oil painting we can observe another of the most common elements in an artistic still life: flowers.
The work in question was created in 1888, just two years before the death of the Dutch artist. Unlike 17th and 18th century paintings, flower still lifes like this one have a more colorful background.
Van Gogh leaves behind the neutral-colored backgrounds and opts for a green one that helps to highlight the color of the flower petals.
Still life in contemporary art
Since the twentieth century, we can find what is an artistic still life through photography.
More and more image artists are choosing artistic still life photography, as an ideal alternative when you want to make a simple work.
The great benefit of still life photography is that no materials are required and you can use any room in your house as a backdrop. If you are an amateur photographer and want to put your knowledge into practice, still life photography is the best option.
But what is an artistic still life in photography? Basically, it consists of following the same premise as in the case of oil painting: turning flowers, fruits or animals into central elements within a domestic environment.
As with the pictorial genre, in still life photography, composition, light, chiaroscuro and chromaticism are essential elements to create works of art on still life.
Drawing and painting courses
Discovering that there’s more to an artistic still life than you thought is cool, but you know what’s even more awesome? being able to apply that knowledge in real life!
As it could not be otherwise, from Crehana we have selected some classes that will help you put into practice, not only the knowledge you have acquired with this post, but also to practice everything you know about art, drawing and painting in general.
anxious to know what we have in store for you? let’s find out!
1. Online course of contemporary techniques with watercolors
Painting with watercolor is quite an experience. And because we want you to develop the best techniques you are capable of, we offer you this online course, so you can explore all the creative potential you have inside you.
During 1 hour and 42 minutes, the teacher Mariana Zepeda will give you all the necessary tools so you can express your creativity freely, using contemporary watercolor techniques.
what will you learn in this course? During the 22 classes you will be able to:
Interpret facial expressions, body communication and even approach self-portraits with decorative components.
Create color palettes and, through watercolor techniques, be able to draw elements of nature, geometric figures, faces, among other elements.
Discover how many types of watercolors there are (yes, there are more than you thought), as well as the shapes and brushstrokes you can make using watercolor materials.
Learn how to activate your creative side, through watercolor exercises for beginners and creative experimentation techniques.
As you can see, despite being an introductory course, it is very complete in terms of what it offers. So take advantage of all your ingenuity and creativity… and create real works of art such as an artistic still life!
2. Online course of Portraits with watercolors
And, following in the wake of watercolors, we bring you a new online course related to them. But don’t think that they are the same, or that they are designed to offer you the same information.
First of all, thanks to these classes you will be able to learn how to create, using watercolors, elements such as the following:
In addition, teacher Dominique Lathrop will explain the best way to draw portraits with watercolor in an easy and simple way, exploiting washes and stain so that you can create a fluid work.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as you’ll also discover how to draw a face, using the grid technique and a photograph. And, of course, you’ll explore your artistic style in all its splendor.
Another introductory course in which you will approach knowledge as simple as it is interesting. Tap into your creative streak and unleash your skill with the brush.
3. Portrait with oil painting online course
We move on from watercolors and focus on oil painting. Through this intermediate online course, you will have access to 49 classes (distributed in 3 hours and 47 minutes) in which you will develop realistic portraits, using chromatic palettes and improving your painting techniques.
what will you learn in these classes? Essentially, you will have access to material and knowledge such as:
The different oil painting techniques, as well as how to use a chromatic palette in a realistic portrait.
The vision of what is involved in the development of oil paintings.
The basic knowledge to make an oil painting, step by step, as well as the materials to use.
The understanding of how to paint portraits using a photographic image as a reference.
The study of drawing and the representation of general forms, as well as the use of proportion and the grid.
From the hand of the teacher and plastic artist, Sebastián Mesa, you will have access to all the information you need to perfect and develop your mastery of the technique of oil painting. you can even start drawing your artistic still life with this format!
Plus, you’ll gain knowledge about what is realistic illustration and pictorial portraiture, what more could you ask for?
4. Online course on Acrylic painting: Painting techniques
Now we move on to acrylic painting, with a course in which you will learn to capture any of your creative ideas in acrylics, through the use of painting techniques, color mixtures and much more.
From the hand of the teacher Lourdes Villagómez, you will learn to make compositions and to order the ideas you have in mind, going from the sketch to the creation of what will be your final work. And, best of all, it’s a complete course!
For 2 hours and 46 minutes (a total of 32 classes, which you can access at any time), anyone who is a painter, designer or simply a fan of painting, will have the necessary tools to make their creations, whether it’s an artistic still life or something more elaborate like a landscape.
5. Online course on Artistic exploration and creative development
This course that we offer in this section may not be based on any type of painting, but it is very important for you. Especially if you want to keep your creative side and develop it in the best possible way.
In this online course, taught by Professor Caro Paz, you can dedicate yourself to the exploration of creativity and art in order to defeat the famous creative block suffered by all those who must develop drawn, written or spoken content.
Creativity is a fundamental factor that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, have. We can channel it in multiple ways: drawing an artistic still life or writing an article about artistic still life… all these activities require creativity and skill to perform, so we teach you, through exercises and games, how you can keep the creative form in constant operation.
what will you learn in this introductory course? During 2 hours and 4 minutes, you will be able to:
Exploit all your creative side, through exercises related to creativity and through drawing tools.
Get out of your creative blocks, by means of the elements you have at your fingertips.
Work with the error and learn all the creative alternatives from it.
Create a creative kit, which will help you as a source of inspiration for your projects.
As you can see, this course offers you a complete work, so don’t miss a great opportunity to consolidate your projects and make the most of your creative side. That artistic still life is not going to draw itself…
An artistic still life is an artistic manifestation that has managed to evolve over the years and that, even today, has become popular again thanks to its influence on current photography.