Still Life is one of the most popular doctrines of fine art that has continued to attract art practitioners and enthusiasts around the world, because it involves depicting static objects, such as fruits, flowers, tools of everyday life, or even abstract compositions arranged on shelves, in a good way that inspires a sense of calm and appreciation of the beauty found in ordinary things.
The drawing of still life dates back centuries and has evolved over time, forming an ancient doctrine of great value in the world of plastic arts with multiple sects and schools.
The reason for this is that the artist needs the artist's full attention to fine details, observing light and shadow all the time in order to be able to capture the essence and beauty of the objects and elements in question.
Therefore, we see that the paintings of this doctrine are characterized by the accurate presentation of textures and the arrangement of objects in dramatic and visually balanced compositions, and the use of colors and fabrics to create a realistic or imaginative representation that enriches the value of simple objects.
One of the hallmarks of the art of silent or static nature is its ability to capture a moment of time that is very loose, and freeze it on the canvas of the painting, immortalizing it forever.
For example, in the painting "Still Life Food". Glasses and a Jug on a Table – by the Dutch artist Peter Claes (1597–1660), who was a professional painter of still life paintings, is a captivating depiction in which he explores the world of luxury of the Dutch aristocracy in the 17th century.
"Still Life of Food, Cups and Jugs on a Table" by Peter Claes (Getty Images)
The painting showcases a range of fine dishes, pears and other fruits, fresh oysters and beautifully displayed bread. Claes paid special attention to detail to bring a touch of vibrancy to the vibrant colours and thus draw the viewer's eye to this world of abundance.
Besides the food, there is a set of meticulously crafted cutlery and a shiny silver jug that symbolizes sophistication and luxury. And all this gives a sense of calm while contemplating the elements that permeate the composition.
Through this ingenious work, Claes not only invites us to taste that rich moment, but also prompts us to reflect on the transient nature of material possessions and the transient beauty of life itself.
Similarly, in the painting Visstilleven met kat, painted in 1620, by the Belgian painter Clara Peters, we see the cat's state of mystery and ambiguity that leaves a sense of realism and intrigue.
The painting also shows the painter's keen attention to detail and her skill in mastering still life, especially in the way she depicted the skin and colors of fish, as well as the composition and arrangement of objects in a way that brings the objects on display to life.
The painting also showcases the change in the shape and nature of the cat and the food between shadow and light, from dark colors to warm colors to bright colors, in a way that enhances the sense of calm and appreciation of the value and charm of fleeting moments.
With this work, Peters transforms ordinary objects into exceptional themes to motivate viewers to see the world around them with a new outlook, in which an appreciation of the aesthetics found in simple things that we often overlook.
Going out of the ordinary
At the turn of the twentieth century, the art of silent nature served as an experimental platform that allowed pioneers of modern art schools, such as Impressionism, Expressionism, and Cubism, to push the boundaries of the traditional representation of still life to another world. While some artists chose realism in representing and shaping still life, others tended to abstract and tinker with shape, color, and brush.
Flowers and a bowl of fruit on a table by Paul Gauguin (Getty Images)
The art of silent nature has embraced this diversity of approach that has spread from the turn of the last century, until the present because of its flexibility. This doctrine was able to adapt and evolve to temporal changes and artistic movements, whether traditional or avant-garde or even contemporary.
For example, the painting "Basket of Apples" by the French impressionist painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) is a delightful culmination of his genius, and this still life was completed in 1893.
This painting is a powerful reflection of Cézanne's post-impressionist style, where the drawing of elements and themes is based on the fluid suggestion that this looks like apples away from strict realist standards.
Apple Basket by Paul Cézanne (Getty Images)
The painting is characterized by the arrangement of the amount of apples carefully placed in a bamboo basket on a rustic tablecloth and a neutral background. Cézanne's use of the brush in disguise – the style for which post-impressionism was known – and the use of colors lead to a captivating interaction between geometric shapes and the organic nature of the fruit.
The artist masterfully captures the essence of each apple, carefully displaying individual textures, shapes and colors creating a dynamic tension within the composition, while fragmented levels leave a sense of multiple diverse perspectives and angles. This technique adds depth and complexity to the painting, inviting the viewer to engage in the painting.
As usual in Still Life paintings, one of the most striking aspects of the "apple basket" is the play of light and shadow, where Cézanne made a wonderful contrast between the dark shades of the bowl and the vibrant colors of apples, bringing them to life.
Still-time nature paintings are arguably highly regarded in the world of fine art, offering a unique view of simple ordinary things, and giving way to appreciating the beauty of the simplest things. Feeling peaceful, magnificent and beautiful does not necessarily require living a luxurious life.