A Moment in Time: What Can Still Life Paintings Tell Us?

Some of us may think of still life paintings and remember sitting in an art class at school staring at a bowl of fruit, but that’s not the real story. Still life paintings can be incredible snapshots of a moment in time, before the age of the photograph and after.


Detail in Still Life Paintings

With art, it’s often the details that make a work so iconic and memorable, such as a hat on a tiny figure, a raised eyebrow in a huge battle scene or a slight crack in an egg. These little details are what make a work of art truly unique. The finest artists notice the little things and capture them forever in their work.

In 20th century still life paintings we can see details that we recognise from our world, in the works of artists such as Stephen Rose and George Weissbort. Still life paintings can also allow us to get a glimpse into how the artist’s world was and how they perceived it: does the painting feel calm or hurried or joyful?


History in Still Life Paintings

Often food and drink in still life paintings can tell us a lot about the painter, what they could afford to eat or where and when they lived due to the availability of a certain fruit or bottle of drink. Many still life paintings show what was on hand to the artist, the objects that they had available to them to capture, from an apple to the cloth on the table to beautiful perfume bottles.

Like objects in a museum, we can see a glimpse of what everyday life was like with a 19th century still life painting. We can also look at the backdrop of the still life for clues. Lighting can play an important part in the still life painting too. Whether it may be the style of the wallpaper or the time of day they chose to paint at, whether they hand a window for natural light or were in a cramped darker room.


The Artist’s Choices in Still Life Painting

Of course, this is all guesswork, but it’s important to see something as more than just an image. An artist chose to paint that particular piece, they devoted time and effort and skill to it. These little details can turn a painting into something so much more, a rich and intricate story about a person, capturing an image at a specific moment in time.

To own your own beautiful still life painting, browse our stunning collection of artworks.

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