When life is Still – in Paintings Throughout Art History

A still life is a work of art whose subject is an inanimate, often artistic arrangement of everyday objects such as food, flowers, books, jewelry, plants, and even dead animals. The art of still life dates back to the Middle Ages and the Greco-Roman era. However, the most famous still life paintings appeared in Western painting at the end of the 16th century. The category focuses primarily on Dutch painting of the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, the English term still life comes from the Dutch word “still life”.

The still life category gives the artist the flexibility to experiment with the structure or plan of components in a painting. Complementary things can be arranged in a pleasing consistency, or disparate things can be combined to create contrast. Different things can serve as indicators or recommendations of different academic disciplines, politics or narratives. In this post, the Baroque House presents some of the most interesting and famous still lifes from the history of art.

A Table of Desserts by Jan Davidz de Heem

famous still life paintings. Jan Davidz de Heem,  A Table of Desserts, 1640
Jan Davidz de Heem, A Table of Desserts, 1640

This popular still life painting by Dutch painter Jan Davidz de Heem is a striking synthesis of particular Dutch accuracy and Flemish Baroque design. The intricate still life of a extravagant meal was extremely fashionable at the time of its development. The table in concern is embellished with fine glasswares and meals, a big selection of foods and even a half-eaten pie. Leaning versus the packed table we see a lute and a recorder, apparent indications of celebration and event. While the items in the painting might appearance arbitrarily puttogether, De Heem provided cautious factortoconsider to their plan. The edible things represent the satisfaction of the senses while the little blue watch on the edge of the table is an suggestion of time’s fleetingness and a call to screen one’s intake.

Still Life with Fruits in Porcelain, Jacob Van Es

famous still life paintings
Jacob Van Es, Still Life with Fruits in Porcelain, 1630

In 1630, Jacob Van Es painted one of the earliest and most popular still life paintings: Fruits in porcelain. The painting showcases Van Es’ proficiency of light. Note the performance of light upon the semi-translucent grapes and the clear difference inbetween foreground and background through the usage of shadow. As with A Table of Desserts, art historians haveactually appointed numerous significances to the products present on the table. One such analysis presumes that the red fruit in the little bowl in the bottom right corner of the frame signify sensuality and sensual love. Meanwhile the yellow and plums might represent absurdity or fidelity.

La Raie, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin

famous still life paintings Jean-Baptiste_Siméon_Chardin_007 La Raie
Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, La Raie, 1728

Parisian painter and scholastic, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin is mostlikely best understood for his painting La Raie, a popular still life oil painting on canvas, made in 1728 and consequently displayed at the Louvre. Copied by Cézanne and Matisse, it hasactually been appreciated by numerous popular French artists over the years consistingof Diderot who questioned his view on the “saving the disgust of particular natures by skill” in other words, how to make lovely what is not more than normal.

Still Life with Skull, Paul Cézanne


Exaggerated volumes, colors and measurements, both empty and complete, are universal in this vanitas still life by Cézanne. It was in 1898 that the impressionist painted Still Life with Skull, one of his most well-known works to date. The painting is in direct contrast to the other well-known still life paintings checkedout in this post. Cézanne’s design is impressionist therefore extremely less reasonable than the work of Van Es or de Heem. More significantly, Cézanne’s topic matter straight contrasts with the Flemish painter’s signs of sensory satisfaction. Cézanne’s vanitas painting is suggested to remind the audience of death and the shortlived nature of earthly satisfaction.

Still Life with Clarinet, Georges Braques


Though frequently eclipsed by his goodfriend Picasso, Georges Braques was a leader of the Cubism motion. Braques produced numerous popular still life paintings which frequently function musical instruments such as the above finished in1927 A real Cubist painting, Still Life with Clarinet appropriates the standard style of the still life while rendering its subject matter in a semi-abstract type, taking the still life into the 20th century.