It was the Flemish and Dutch Old Masters who established the conventions of the still life genre most recognisably. Luscious scenes of flowers, fruit and domestic objects were rendered with extreme realism and replete with symbolism. The market for still life scenes remains strong to this day. The genre’s enduring popularity might be explained by the intimacy it permits between artist and viewer. Usually comprising a selection of carefully-chosen items set within an interior, it affords artists a unique opportunity to communicate a point-of-view, both through the style with which they have rendered the piece, and the selection of items they have chosen to present.
Carey Clarke’s Still Life with Lilies incorporates all the traditional components of still life painting, and is rendered with a characteristically meticulous eye. Also evident is a deep consideration of light and the space between the objects, which permeates the painting with an atmosphere that is thoroughly modern.
Anne Redpath is a star of post-war Scottish art, and is particularly celebrated for her still lifes. This charming lithograph demonstrates Redpath’s constant experimentation with pattern and perspective, and highlights her accomplished and varied mark-making, from the bold patterns bordering the composition to the delicate roses adorning the jug.
Redpath’s son David Michie was inspired by travel and the objects that populated his day-to-day life. Like his mother, Michie has experimented with perspective: the frontal approach to the stack of Moroccan Cakes emphasises their vibrant primary tone and graphic form.
In Sunny Still Life we find Barbara Balmer’s distinctive precision-of-line flooded with delicate colour. Balmer’s artworks are often imbued with a meditative quality, her subjects assuming totem-like significance. In this exquisite example, a white butterfly is rendered wtih such economy that its form is almost abstracted.
Simon Laurie’s still lifes incorporate objects-as-symbols, which serve to tell us something of Scottish life and society. Each component of the scene is suspended in semi-abstracted space and presented frontally. In Fish and White Jug Laurie’s confident use of colour and composition is a delight to behold.
James McDonald’s paintings are rendered with striking realism, and appear to explicitly reference the seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish still life tradition - yet his use of everyday subjects humorously subverts expectations. In the dramatically-lit piece below the texture of the jam is painted with painstaking attention, and seems to glisten convincingly.