Image: William Merritt Chase American, 1849–1916. Still Life with Fish, ca. 1904–1912. Oil on canvas, 29 1/8 x 36 1/8 in (74 x 91.8 cm). Gift of Mrs. Charles T. Neale, in loving memory of her mother, Mrs. Spencer Kellogg, 1948.1.4.
The still life is one of the earliest genres of painting. Examples are found in Egyptian tombs, the villas of the Roman Empire, and are perhaps most associated with 17th century Dutch and Flemish masters. The genre is no less popular among the artists of the 20th century. An arrangement of everyday objects, the simplicity of the subject matter belies often complex symbolic meanings.
From the painterly explorations of naturalistic form found in the work of William Merritt Chase, to the collage techniques of Picasso and Braque, to the deceptively banal reality in Carrie Mae Weems’ photography, artists throughout the 20th century have engaged with this genre to demonstrate technical skill, to experiment with modern styles and themes, and to comment on the nature of everyday objects and their place within art.
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