FOCUS ON STILL LIFE
This week, we’re paying homage to the humble still life. At first glance, when selecting artwork for our home, we may overlook the still life category in favour of something seemingly more exciting - a surreal landscape or invigorating abstract, perhaps. But still lives, with their enigmatic character, unusual assemblage of objects and rich heritage, have an amazing capacity to move and captivate the viewer - making them a real dark horse in the contemporary art world! Whether you opt for a still life which errs on the side of tradition, surprises with bright colours or a humorous subject matter, or relaxes with soothing muted hues, this is a category which definitely shouldn’t be underestimated or overlooked.
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The still life has a long history. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Northern Renaissance artists created candle lit scenes with striking colours, dense brushstrokes and sharp highlights. Likewise, the centre point in Caravaggio’s religious paintings was often a table bursting with food or were majestic works in their own right. Moving into the nineteenth-century, painters embraced the everyday, producing still lives of fish, bottles, tea sets and bottles. Van Gogh and Cezanne portrayed cheerful sunflowers and rosy-hued apples and pears, and by the twentieth century, Cubist painters deconstructed musical instruments, newspapers and wine bottles, which refracted across their canvases. Whilst some artists produced still lives that were quiet and captivating - such as Italian artist Giorgio Morandi’s muted canvases of vases, cups and saucers - others gave their still lives a punchy, pop-art boost - most famously seen in Andy Warhol’s iconic ’32 Campbell’s Soup Cans’.
With this long tradition in mind, many of the fabulous artists featured on our Online Shop celebrate the superiority of the still life - but do so in a number of surprising ways. Read on for our pick of the best.
Terrific and Traditional
Invest in a complete show stopper with Markus Rock's Der Opium Tisch, or The Opium Table. Nodding to early Dutch painting, this bold photograph employs familiar motifs of skulls, fruit and silverware with a startling degree of clarity. Other painters, such as Peter Kotka and his Oranges and Lemons! also look to the tradition, but give it a modern twist using contemporary subject matter. Works such as these can look particularly striking in a modern interior - perhaps convincing guests you’re in possession of your very own Old Master painting!
For something which retains this sense of tradition but lacks the theatrics, we love Matt Curtis's Olive Oil and Apple. Matt’s work embodies a sense of the subdued serenity of Morandi’s still lives, yet also holds a power all of its own.
Soothing and Serene
Still lives undoubtedly have a wonderfully calming quality, allowing you to ponder on the simplicity of the objects depicted and the detail they convey. We love Beth Richardson's slightly surreal Rolled, which blends the still life genre with a minimalist aesthetic. This would look fantastic in a large, well-lit room on a pale wall or over a colourful sofa.
Similarly, the buttery yellow lemons of Terry Whybrow's Painting 263, along with the unusual block composition and grey lines of other objects, creates a compelling canvas that would look gorgeous in a bedroom, where its soothing and balanced composition can be really appreciated.
Colourful and Courageous
Still lives aren’t just about soothing minimalism - they can be powerful, vibrant pieces that pack a punch and galvanise your interior. Marie Robinson's fabulous Equilibrium, with its brightly coloured watermelon segments stealing the show, it will no doubt make you smile every time you wander past.
For something really quirky, and with a fun title to match, we love Jonjo Elliot's Tesco Meal Deal - sure to invigorate an overlooked part of your interior in no time. Or, for a pop of colour, how about Richard Heeps' Telephone I? A still life can make a statement too - Chris Morgan's War what is it good for proves both thought-provoking and political, using a striking composition of children’s toys to make its point.
Surprising and Surreal
It’s important to remember that still lives can also be unpredictable and surreal, just like their abstract, portrait or landscape counterparts. Pum's The Immeasurable and the Inscape, for example, immediately takes us into a world of weird and wonderful assemblages, with its array of strange, floating objects dominating the canvas. Likewise, Marcus Bolt's Private Pleasures (main image) transports us to a decidedly Picasso-esque space of bold colours and two-dimensional shapes. This piece would work brilliantly in a kitchen, dining room or study, providing a real focal point to any room.
So there you have it, whether it’s a touch of photographic realism, a nod to the Old Masters or a serene and soothing still life, invest in an artwork that celebrates the power of objects and the meaning they give our lives. Get browsing across our online marketplace or use our filters to find that perfect still life for your home.
Featured art from first to last:
Markus Rock, Der Opium Tish, 2016, pigment print, £5000, ALL YOU CAN ART
Peter Kotka, Oranges or Lemons!, 2019, oil, £2600, GreenStage Gallery
Matt Curtis, Olive Oil and Apple, 2016, oil, £1500, Signet Contemporary Art
Beth Richardson,Rolled, 2019, acrylic, £2200, GreenStage Gallery
Terry Whybrow, Painting 263, 2018, acrylic £900, Eleven and a Half
Marie Robinson, Equilibrium, 2017, oil, £990, Will's Art Warehouse
Jonjo Elliott, Tesco Meal Deal, 2019, oil, £2000, StudionAme
Richard Heeps, Telephone I - Ballantines Movie Colony, 2002, C-Type £395, Bleach Box
Chris Morgan, War What is it Good For, 2019, oil, £1400, Signet Contemporary Art
Pum, The Immeasurable and the Inscape, 2019, £750, BROTHart