The name of this genre can tell about what still life is, and it is very eloquent – in Italian, natura morta means “dead nature”. Creations of nature, once depicted by artists, froze on canvas. The fact that it was alive many centuries ago – delicate flowers, ripe fruit, freshly caught fish and trophies brought from a successful hunt – these objects were most loved to depict in their works the artists who worked in the still life genre. They liked to decorate with such paintings dwellings, for example, a dining room.
Still-life painting acquired great popularity in Holland in the 17th century. This time is considered to be the belle epoque of Dutch painting. The local name of this genre – stilleven – “frozen life”.
The painters tried to create works of various subjects, when everyone could find something of their own, corresponding to their own understanding of the beautiful. In the university town of Leiden, a “learned still life” appeared – it was a still life designed to satisfy the tastes of intellectuals.
To understand such pictures, the viewer needs some level of education, for example, the ability to recognize hints on biblical scenes in works, to understand the symbolism of works. For many of these paintings is characterized by the use of special effects of its era, optical illusions.
Other types of still life include: still life with flowers, still lifes with the plots “Breakfasts” and “Served tables”, tonal still life, fish still life, hunting and luxury still life.
Art articles. Jan Davids de Hem, Large still life with a bird’s nest, end of the 17th century
Jan Davids de Hem, Large still life with a bird’s nest, end of the 17th century
One of the most prominent masters of the 17th century still life was the Dutch artist Willem Kalf. He gave still life a new form, using bottles, glasses, plates and light-reflecting materials in his paintings – glass, silver and gold. In the field of “luxury still life” he had no equal.
Still life with wine in glasses, grapes and fruit brought fame to the Dutch artist, Jan Davids de Hem. He depicted flowers in vases, was attentive to details: butterflies and insects live in his paintings. Thanks to the skillfully selected color gamut, the images are transparent, look realistic and vibrant.
A subtle colorist and talented artist Willem van Aalst in his oil still lifes depicted fabrics, metals and feathers of birds. Often found in his paintings blue velvet. He is also the author of still lifes with fruits and flowers, and still lifes on hunting themes.
Art articles. Willem van Aalst, Still Life with Fruit. 1677
Willem van Aalst, Still Life with Fruit. 1677
Painters, masters of still life art, in their works reflected philosophical ideas and their own reflections, embodied on canvas the thoughts about the fast-moving life and the importance of each of its moments. They tried to grasp the secrets of nature and mutual influences of the world of matter and spirit.