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For this research point we are asked to……

Look at the work of some of the 17th century Dutch still life and flower painters. Make notes on paintings that you especially admire and find our more about the techniques employed. Research at least one painting that has iconographic significance.  Which of the objects depicted carry particular meaning and what was that meaning.

Dutch still life painting developed along with increased prosperity and urbanisation. With increased wealth  came the desire for new outlets for spending and decoration of the home. The earliest form of still life was the floral paintings.  These were often of flowers that could not have been in bloom at the same season.


A Vase with Flowers by Jacob Vosmaer (1584-1641)


This painting is of rare specimens of flower that could only have been available to the artist from illustrations as they are from different countries. The detail is meticulous, the dark background throwing the flowers forward.







Jan Breugle the Elder 1610


Still Life with Tulips, Chrysanthemums, Narcissi, Roses, Irises and other Flowers in a Glass Vase. Very similar in composition to the first painting I looked at, but softer in style, not quite so precise. Again flowers from different seasons and I have now noticed that each seems to have a butterfly.  This apparently symbolised the soul and resurrection.



Digital Photo File Name: DT2131.tif Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 1-5-2016


A Vase of Flowers byMargareta Haverman (Dutch, active by 1716–died 1722 or later

This painting particularly grabbed me because of the flow of the composition and the colours.  This is later than the previous two, and it appears to have a particular colour palette rather than a vase stuffed with flowers of all hues.  There is a diagonal sweep from the top right tulip to the large grey green leaf, bottom left.  The yellows in the flowers top left are reflected in the grapes bottom right the whole scheme is harmonious.  To top this I then discovered it was painted by a woman!



Vanitas  – a word used to describe a category of still life painting in this era. It was to signify the (vanity/pointlessness) of possessions and pass times.

One of the most used symbols were skulls,  a reminder of the certainty of death, bubbles showed the brevity of life and suddenness of death. Smoke and watches symbolised the limited time of our existence.


Still Life with a Skull and Writing Quill by Pieter Claesz 1597 – 1661

Above is one of the paintings in the Vanitas category of still life of the time.  The Skull and cracked walnut = death.  The watch and almost snuffed out candle and flower the brevity of life. The watch and candlestick, made of gold = wealth. the quill = writing and the parchment is perhaps a will.

Then explore the development of still life through the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  For example, look at how traditional still life subjects were dealt with in some early cubist paintings by Braque and Picasso. Investigate how some contemporary artists are interpreting this genre.

As the century progressed still life works became more complex, including at first domhb_50.55estic items and then animals (from hunting) particularly birds.

Gamepiece with a Dead Heron (“Falconer’s Bag”)

Jan Weenix 1695



Still life painting was less popular during the 18th Century and began to come to the fore again in the 19th Century when artists were experimenting with colour and techniques just at the time of the impressionists.  The dark backgrounds are gone and the viewing angles and composition changed dramatically


Still Life with Apples and Grapes – Claude Monet

Still Life with Fish – 1864 byÉdouard Manet

Sunflowers, 1888-Van Gogh


Georges Braque, 1910, Violin and Candlestick

These two paintings by George Braque show still life on its way to and finally in the cubist style.  Both have muted pallets.  The Musical Instruments painting done two years before has the instruments flattened and jumbled on top of each other with some sheet music.  Still Life with Violin and Candlestick on the right has split the elements of the objects, they are repeated in places and the viewer has to search for the objects amongst the very pale almost monochrome pallet.


Musical Instruments Georges Braque 1908

Looking at contemporary still life, there is a huge amount of variation…………..

ultra minimalist style with simple, non existent background or any context, such as Wayne Theibaud. These are graphic in style, relying on pattern of several of the same object with strong cast shadow.


By Rebecca Scott from a series of paintings in 2006 “Perfect Life”  paintings inspired by magazine photography selling us the perfect existence – and the products


Below are links to three pieces on the Saatchiart website which use humour










Perfect Life