Student Resource

Still Life Exam Help

Not just fruit and flowers, explore still lifes from realistic to abstract and familiar to unexpected

Barry Flanagan, ‘aaing j gni aa’ 1965
Barry Flanagan
aaing j gni aa 1965
Tate
© The estate of Barry Flanagan, courtesy Plubronze Ltd
Ben Nicholson OM, ‘1922 (bread)’ 1922
Ben Nicholson OM
1922 (bread) 1922
Tate
© Angela Verren Taunt 2019. All rights reserved, DACS
Patrick Caulfield, ‘Coloured Still Life’ 1967
Patrick Caulfield
Coloured Still Life 1967
Tate
© The estate of Patrick Caulfield. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019
Lisa Milroy, ‘Shoes’ 1985
Lisa Milroy
Shoes 1985
Tate
© Lisa Milroy
Pablo Picasso, ‘Still Life’ 1914
Pablo Picasso
Still Life 1914
Tate
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
Sarah Lucas, ‘The Old In Out’ 1998
Sarah Lucas
The Old In Out 1998
Tate
© Sarah Lucas
David Hockney, ‘Four Flowers in Still Life’ 1990
David Hockney
Four Flowers in Still Life 1990
Tate
© David Hockney
Pablo Picasso, ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper’ 1913
Pablo Picasso
Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper 1913
Tate
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
Edward Collier, ‘Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’’ 1696
Edward Collier
Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’ 1696
Tate
Peter Kinley, ‘Flowers on a Table’ 1966–7
Peter Kinley
Flowers on a Table 1966–7
Tate
© The estate of Peter Kinley
André Derain, ‘Still Life’ c.1938–43
André Derain
Still Life c.1938–43
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Paul Cézanne, ‘Still Life with Water Jug’ c.1892–3
Paul Cézanne
Still Life with Water Jug c.1892–3
Tate
Ben Nicholson OM, ‘1934-6 (painting - still life)’ 1934–6
Ben Nicholson OM
1934-6 (painting - still life) 1934–6
Tate
© Angela Verren Taunt 2019. All rights reserved, DACS
Mary Fedden, ‘Mauve Still Life’ 1968
Mary Fedden
Mauve Still Life 1968
Tate
© The estate of Mary Fedden
Sir William Gillies, ‘Still Life with Blue Gloves’ 1968
Sir William Gillies
Still Life with Blue Gloves 1968
Tate
© The estate of Sir William Gillies
Daniel Spoerri, ‘Prose Poems’ 1959–60
Daniel Spoerri
Prose Poems 1959–60
Tate
© DACS, 2019
Stephen McKenna, ‘Three Baskets’ 1995
Stephen McKenna
Three Baskets 1995
Tate
© Stephen McKenna
Michael Craig-Martin, ‘Knowing’ 1996
Michael Craig-Martin
Knowing 1996
Tate
© Michael Craig-Martin
Tony Cragg, ‘Six Bottles (Large), State 1’ 1988
Tony Cragg
Six Bottles (Large), State 1 1988
Tate
© DACS 2019
William Scott, ‘Ochre Still Life’ 1958
William Scott
Ochre Still Life 1958
Tate
© The estate of William Scott
Lisa Milroy, ‘Light Bulbs’ 1988
Lisa Milroy
Light Bulbs 1988
Tate
© Lisa Milroy
Giorgio de Chirico, ‘The Uncertainty of the Poet’ 1913
Giorgio de Chirico
The Uncertainty of the Poet 1913
Tate
© DACS, 2019
Man Ray, ‘Cadeau’ 1921, editioned replica 1972
Man Ray
Cadeau 1921, editioned replica 1972
Tate
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Pierre Bonnard, ‘The Table’ 1925
Pierre Bonnard
The Table 1925
Tate
Robert Edge Pine, ‘Still Life with Palette and Brushes, Fruit and Flowers’ c.1760–70
Robert Edge Pine
Still Life with Palette and Brushes, Fruit and Flowers c.1760–70
Tate

Still lifes can include all kinds of man-made or natural objects. They can be realistic or abstract, familiar or unexpected or have a symbolic meaning related to celebration or death.

Shape, pattern, structure

Pablo Picasso, ‘Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle’ 1914
Pablo Picasso
Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle 1914
Lent by the National Gallery 1997
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
Juan Gris, ‘Bottle of Rum and Newspaper’ 1913–14
Juan Gris
Bottle of Rum and Newspaper 1913–14
Tate

Simple still life arrangements have been used by artists for a long time. The cubists used them to experiment with shape, viewpoint and material. Artists often choose visually interesting objects – for their form, colour or texture. For example, the simple shape of a bottle. A complicated pattern on a piece of cloth. The structure of a halved fruit. Pop artists were inspired by the bold packaging of the everyday objects in their work.

Andy Warhol, ‘The Cinema of Andy Warhol’ 1990
Andy Warhol
The Cinema of Andy Warhol 1990
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
Andy Warhol, ‘Warhol/Basquiat Paintings’ 1985
Andy Warhol
Warhol/Basquiat Paintings 1985
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
Andy Warhol, ‘Campbell’s Soup Box 1985’ 1985
Andy Warhol
Campbell’s Soup Box 1985 1985
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
Andy Warhol
Brillo
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Symbols

Pablo Picasso, ‘Black Jug and Skull’ 1946
Pablo Picasso
Black Jug and Skull 1946
Tate
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2019

Still lifes can also be used as symbols. By depicting particular objects artists suggest other themes or ideas. Artists often include skulls in their work to represent death. This kind of still life is valled a vanitas.

You add extra meaning to a work when you include things of personal significance. These things could be a photograph or a souvenir. Many twentieth century artists depict objects of cultural significance. Andy Warhol used real everyday objects to symbolise contemporary culture and consumerism.

Sir William Nicholson, ‘Studio Still Life’ 1914
Sir William Nicholson
Studio Still Life 1914
Tate
© Desmond Banks
Clive Branson, ‘Still Life’ 1940
Clive Branson
Still Life 1940
Tate

New interpretations

Sarah Lucas, ‘The Old In Out’ 1998
Sarah Lucas
The Old In Out 1998
Tate
© Sarah Lucas

By presenting everyday objects in new ways artists create new interpretations. They make us think about objects in a different way. Sarah Lucas cast a toilet in clear resin. This created a beautiful object from something basic and functional. What we think of the object changes because it now looks dramatic and detailed. Henry Moore’s cropped and enlarged details of skulls look like interiors of futuristic buildings.

Henry Moore OM, CH, ‘Elephant Skull Plate III’ 1969
Henry Moore OM, CH
Elephant Skull Plate III 1969
Tate
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore OM, CH, ‘Elephant Skull Plate XXVII’ 1970
Henry Moore OM, CH
Elephant Skull Plate XXVII 1970
Tate
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore OM, CH, ‘Elephant Skull Plate XXI’ 1969
Henry Moore OM, CH
Elephant Skull Plate XXI 1969
Tate
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore OM, CH, ‘Elephant Skull Plate XVIII’ 1970
Henry Moore OM, CH
Elephant Skull Plate XVIII 1970
Tate
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

Art terms related to still life

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