Edouard Manet reportedly said that still life is "the touchstone of painting." Artists as diverse as Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso shared the impressionist's preoccupation with the insentient across movements, cultures, and eras.
An arrangement of lifeless things is the subject of a still life painting, sometimes called a nature morte from its French name. Fruit, flowers, other edibles, glassware, linens, and other household goods are typical table decorations.
The Dutch word stilleven, which became popular in the 16th century, is whence we get our English phrase "still life." However, although it was around this period that still life became a recognized art form, its origins go back far further in history.
The majority of still life paintings fall into one of four categories: floral, banquet/breakfast, animal, or symbolic. The majority of still life genres have unmistakable hallmarks; for example, floral works often contain bouquets or vases brimming with blossoms, while banquet works feature a spread of delicious food. However, symbolic still lifes may take on a wide range of forms. The things shown in symbolic paintings may stand in for abstract concepts or tell a story. Perhaps the clearest example of this is seen in vanitas painting, a kind of still life that emphasizes the transience of existence.
The most renowned and prolific still life artists include Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836 -1904), Pierre Auguste Renoir (French, 1841 -1919), Samuel John Peploe (Scottish, 1871 -1935), Johan Laurentz (J.L.) Jensen (Danish, 1800 -1856), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 -1890), Severin Roesen (German, ca. 1815 -1872), Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887 -1927), Odilon Redon (French, 1840 -1916), John Frederick Peto (American, 1854 -1907), Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 -1906), among others.