What makes a good still life? Is it the gloss of the apples, the fuzziness of the peaches? The lustre of flower petals? The apparent ripeness of the fruit spilling out of a perfectly woven basket? The dappled light? No fruit or flowers at all? Should the subject necessarily be something that was once alive? Is still life painting still an art school mainstay? Perhaps the Still Life folder in the SVA Pictures Collection can answer some of these questions. Still life painting is not nearly as popular as it was back in the age of the Dutch Masters, although contemporary artists like Chloe Wise and Susan Jane Walp engage with the tradition. Still life paintings romanticize, or simply celebrate the banal, the mundane. They imbue something as everyday as an apple (assuming you’re following the doctor’s orders) with a richness and splendour previously relegated to the realm of religious art. The everyday, through still life, thus becomes a  subject worthy of contemplation - a shift that corresponds art historically to a larger cultural movement in the West towards secularization.
Tabletop covered in small items such as scissors, playing card, key, brooch, letter, stopwatch and doily.
"Keepsakes of Love" by John Hedgecoe
Items on a tabletop including a letter openers, bottle, LP, etc.
Esquire December 1964
Painting of apples and grapes.
Atop a wooden table sits two large ceramic jugs and a pot filled with lemons.
A basket spills over with fruit and other edibles. A bowl full of haricot beans and a pheasant.
A table covered in plums, peaches, pears, rhubarb and a pheasant.
"Partridge, Bowl of Plums and Basket of Pears," Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin
Tabletop covered with spoons, baking utentils and bowls, a lemon, a lemon cut in half and a white cloth.
Table spilling over with decadent food – lobster, fish, rabbit, pheasant. On the floor beneath the table is a dog and a cat and some melons.
Painting of peaches and grapes.