Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: 20th Century Still Life Paintings

Even to the most discerning art collector, the words ‘still life’ still represent a large body of work produced before the 20th century. Flowers, fruit and similar themes dominated the artists’ choice of subject. Talented still life artists who painted later in the 1900s are in turn often overshadowed by their more renowned contemporaries in Europe.

Quality, though, is still to be found in lesser known artists, particularly those from Belgium, Scandinavia and the British Isles. Contemporary interior design and style match the objects painted by 20th century still life artists particularly well, as their choice of subject matter can take an ordinary object and make it into an extraordinary subject.

George Weissbort

For example, George Weissbort, a Belgian-born artist who moved to London at an early age, takes his influences from Segal and Meninsky, to name a few. His “In the Studio: A Break for a Pepsi” is as relevant and as easily accessible now as it was when he painted it. An inexpensive bottle of Pepsi, an ashtray – the detritus of ‘taking a break’ becomes elevated and invites us in for a closer look.

His “Still life with mustard jar, tomatoes, knife and glass on a striped tablecloth” exemplifies the same talent to take ordinary items to another level, juxtaposing reds and whites in a vibrant execution of colour.

Stephen Rose

Another example is the work of living artist Stephen Rose, who takes the most humble of subjects, “A Tray of Eggs”, and elevates it into a lesson in minimalism. One brown egg stands out among the other white ones, grouped together in what most would consider something to be simply thrown away – a regular cardboard egg carton. Yet it completes the picture and draws our attention to its subject better than any other surface could.


These are just two examples of how 20th century still life paintings can be both ordinary and extraordinary in their subject and execution. Traditional antique still life pictures can be as beautiful and powerful, but those looking for a contemporary feel to a traditional subject may wish to contact us in order to investigate the lesser-known names from the 20th century.

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