Contempory artists: interiors

Contempory artists depicting interiors.

Gillian Carnegie

Carnegie paints landscapes, interiors, still life and nudes, but paints more for the physical qualities of the painting than to represent the subject, even though her work is figurative.She uses a variety of history-referencing styles. Barry Schwabsky (Artforum Magazine April 2005) wrote “Carnegie turns back toward the fusty hues of old pictures rotting beneath their own varnish, not to reclaim some former solidarity but all the better to verify her form’s ultimate evanescence”.
She was shortlisted for the Turner prize in 2005, causing quite a debate amongst many critics who did not know of her work. Louisa Buck, one of the judges is quoted in the Independant as saying that the work “is very complex and conceptually rich”. Charles Darwent, Art Critic for the Independent on Sunday, quoted in the same article, was dismissive, claiming she was not that good a painter and that “painting’s over”. He did temer his view somewhat, when he considered that Carnegie “really worries about paint; she uses quite a lot of impasto – it’s expressive, very alive.”

Carnegie Prince

Figure 1. Carnegie, G.(2011-2012) Prince (detail).

Lucy McKenzie

Louise Buck (2013) in her review of the exhibition at the Tate, ‘The Bigger Splash’ observes that Art History is overtly explored in the work of Lucy McKenzie, stating that her work examines how the aesthetics of fascism have been played out in domestic interiors.

McKenzie hereslf (2012) states that she questions the givens of classical painting. The work displayed was inspired by  “Slender Means”, a novel of Muriel Spark, which is set in a delapidated formerly grand house which has been split into tiny rooms to accomodate women “of slender means”. McKenzie uses skills of 19th century interior decoration, which she learnt in a specialised school in Brussels, to produce set-like interiors. They are neither scenery or backdrop, although were later used as decor. They show the scuffs and satins of years of inhabitation and document the story of the 20th century and it’s use of the housing legacy from times of prosperity.

LMK2010_inst_db_web7-600x444 (1)

Figure 2. Slender Means installed in Daniel Buchholz Gallery, Cologne. 2011.

Sabine Moritz

Sabine Moritz is a German artist working in Cologne. She grew up in the former GDR and emigrated with her family to West Germany in 1985.

Her work is strongly linked to the concept of memory. Her first major works are called Lobeda, after the suburb of Jena in which she and her mother and sisters lived. The drawings form a book of the same name and are drawings from memory of images from her childhood. They are graphite on paper and monochrome. The objects depicted are everyday domestic objects such as a radiator, a cooking stove, simple interiors. the perspective is not always accurate, indeed the drawings have a child-like quality. The mood is sad, there is  functionality, stark use of space, isolation and desolation, conveyed in a few simple lines.

Two Washbasins 1993 by Sabine Moritz born 1969
Figure 3. Two Washbasins 1993 Sabine Moritz

Patrick Caulfield
English painter and printmaker.He simplified the representation of objects to black outlines, choosing subjects that were often hackneyed or ambiguous in time.
In her review of the exhibition Patrick Caulfield/ Gary Hume at the Tate in 2013 Laura Cumming commented,”Caulfield could paint the surfaces and spaces of modern life like nobody else.” He used many different idioms and uneringly presented the paradox of picturing the world in two dimensions on a flat surface.
In the 80s he stopped using outlines and turned to silhouettes, with the decor of his interiors appearing like collages, the representations architectural and yet somehow mysterious.

After Lunch 1975 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005
Figure 4. After Lunch 1975 Patrick Caulfield

In After Lunch 1975 he combines different styles of representation. What appears to be a photomural of the Chateau de Chillon hanging in a resturant is depicted with high-focus realism, contrasting with the cartoon-like black-outlined imagery in the foreground.
This approach is no longer seen in the work, Interior with a Picture, below:

Interior with a Picture 1985-6 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005
Figure 5. Interior with a Picture 1985-6 Patrick Caulfield

The black descriptive line is only used in the corner of the corridor to show the dado-rail and the bannister. Flat blocks of colour determine form and space.the relationships between the different elemnets in the painting are blurred by the use of the two contrasting styles.

Ivon Hitchens (3 March 1893 – 29 August 1979)
A British artist who became part of the ‘London Group’, known for his landscapes. His style was neither strictly figurative, nor astract, and comes close to the Fauvist movement in France. He used colour in a mannner reminiscent of the Fauvists and his open brush work and delicate shades and tones are reminiscent of the informality of Constable’s sketches.

David Hockney

David Hockney is a British artist who has worked in almost every medium – painting, drawing. stage design, photography and printmaking. In his paintings of interiors he explores the spatial ideas of perspective. He painted Van Gogh Chair and Gauguin’s Chair in 1988, using reverse perspective. In his book ‘That’s the Way I See It’ (1993) Hockney reflects upon the painter’s preoccupation with the surface, and compares this with the photographer, whose main concern is the edge. He reflects that acknowledgement  of the edge leads to consideration of the surface. He develops the notion that the surface of a painting is never completely flat and that the marks made lead the eye to appreciate the passage of time. He observes that ‘a hand moving across (the surface) means that time is involved and a line drawn: it has time in it because it has a beginning, a middle and an end and somehow this helps to make a space.’ He links this idea to three pictues, Two Pembroke Chairs 1985, Pembroke Studio with Blue Chairs and Lamp 1985, and Untitled 1985, in which there are many viewpoints. He says ‘the eye is forced to move all the time. When the perspective moves, the eye moves, and as the eye moves through time, you begin to convert time into space.’ Three further pictures, Small Interior, Los Angeles, July 1988, Large Interior, Los Angeles 1988, and Interior with Sun and Dog 1988 are a continuing exploration of this theme. Later, in 1991, Hockney drew Beach House Inside on a Macintosh computer, taking nine hours to produce enough contrast in the reds and browns on the screen in the prints he made from the drawing. Hockney has said ‘I have always believed that art should be a deep pleasure… I believe that my duty as an artist is to overcome and alleviate the sterility of despair…New ways of seeing mean new ways of feeling.’ (Hockney 1993).


Figure 1. Carnegie, G. (2011-2012) Prince Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016].

Figure 2. Mackenzie, L (2011) Slender Means Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 3. Moritz, S. (1996) Two Washbasins [oil and acrylic on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 4. Caulfield, P. (1975) After Lunch [Acrylic on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 5. Caulfield, P. (1985-86) Interior with a Picture [Acrylic on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]


Field, M. (2005) Gillian Carnegie: Flower power. In: Independent [Online] At: (Accessed 07/10/2015)

Hamilton, A. (2011) A Bigger Slpash: More a damp squib than a big splash.
In : Independent [Online] At:
splash-more-a-damp-squib-than-a-big-splash-8307202.html (Accessed 07/10/2015)

Buck, L (2013) Five Contemporary Artists In: The Telegraph [Online] At:…/art/…/painting-now-five-contemporary-artists (accessed 07/10/2015)

McKenzie, L. (2013) Tate Shots At:

Cumming, L. (2013) Patrck Caulfield/ Gary Hume. In: The Guardian [Online} At: (Accessed 08/10/2015)

Hockney, D (1993) That’s the way I see it. Ed Stangos, N. London Thames and Hudson

Contempory artists and animals

Contempory artists depicting animals.

Henry Moore’s Sheep Series.

Beautiful drawings of sheep, usually etchings. sketched from his window.

Strong use of cross-hatching and short line to convey the density of the wool and shape of the animals.

David Jones Drawing of a Pig

Simple use of line in these studies, with shading or watercolour to add depth.

David Hockney

Dog Days. A cute series of studies of datschunds, in oil, using bright colours and simple compositions

William Barnet

1911-2012. American Artist, known for his drawings and paintings of the human figure and animals. Stylised, cartoon-like frequent motif of cats and crows with women. Simplified form of realism and poetic symbolism. Ken Johnson November 13 2012 in New York Times [online] (accessed 14/09/15).

Tracey Emin

Drawings of birds. Deceptively difficult to reproduce. Look so simple and “rough”, but with masses of character.

Series of drawings including “Badger” in RA Summer Exhibition 2015

Owl Tracey Emin 2015
Baby Rabbit and Squirrel Tracey Emin 2015
Hare Tracey Emin 2015
Squirrel Tracey Emin 2015

Gillian Jagger

Sculptor and painter born 1930. Lives in New York City.
Works with huge pieces of wood, trees, that can look like animals hanging.
She hates all animal cruelty and is anti Damien Hirst for his slaughter of animals to use in his art. She uses dead animals and mummified animals in sculptural pieces.
Drawings of Hanging Deer an animal killed on road, drawn first and then again when decomposing.
Magdalenian sculptures at Cap Blanc inspiration for her show And Then, And Now: New Work From The Cave. John Davis Gallery in Hudson.oct 12 – Nov 3 2013
Enormous drawings of animals in same colour yellow that had been used at the shelter in Cap Blanc where she stayed whilst drawing.
Ref: Claire Lambe Roll magazine.

Eugene Martin
Imaginative and complex mixed media collages and often gently humorous drawings and paintings that may incorporate whimsical allusions to animals and structural imagery among aread of geometric, biomorphic or lyrical abstraction.

David Remfry

Bluewolf: Graphite drawing of a wolf slinking away. Oscar: Etching of a daschund. Both in RA Summer Exhibition 2015.

Bluewolf David Remfry 2015

Meg Buick

Lithograph entitled Dog A drawing of a poor-looking stray animal. Contrasts with Remfry’s Oscar, but is similar in its emotional tone to his Bluewolf.

Richard Long

Richard Long

He is one of Britain’s first Land Artists. His work is sculptural and photographic, but he has also made paintings using mud taken from sites of particular relevance to him.

He considers that his work is about the impact of his actions upon the landscapes and environment in which he produces them, rather than in a visual representaion. Thus he has undertaken many walks in a wide variety of places, which he documents simply and sparsely in a few lines of text.

I visited his exhibition ‘Time and Space’ at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol.

Photo of work of Richard Long at Arnolfini Gallery Bristol. ‘Time and Space’ 2015.

Other works consist of photographs of found materials which he encounters on his walks. He assembles large sculptural forms from rocks or stones, often in circles, and takes photographs of them. he often returns the material to it’s original state. Other land sculptures consist of lines made by his feet walking a particular terrain, which he again photographs.

Rock Circle.

The exhibition at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery contains a series of works, early and more recent, including installations made by him specifically for the exhibition. There are huge mud paintings covering entire walls, which were made using mud from the Severn esturary. There is a slate “cross”. There are examples of the walks he has undertaken and the texts which resulted.

Slate cross. Part of exhibition ‘Time and Space ‘Arnolfini Bristol

This approach to art pushes my understanding of the creative process. It stimulates the imagination, as it is almost free of imposition, and I have been left with a soft and misty series of questions which are more about the artist as a person than they are about the actual work. What has motivated him, how did he arrive at the concepts, how does he sustain himself in such solitude, whilst walking the miles? As Alastair Sooke (Sooke 2015) observes, his work has a harshness and total lack of sentimental engagement with the landscapes he crosses. This represents his self-imposed acseticism and pushes the same condition upon the viewer.


Glover, M. (2015) ‘Review: Richard Long. Time and Space, Arnolfifi Gallery, Bristol. In: The Independent [Online] At: (Accessed 05/10/2015)

Sooke, A. (2015) ‘Richard Long: Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol: review ‘the self-discipline of a medieval monk’. In: The Telegraph [Online] At: (Accessed 05/10/2015)

Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele.

He was an Austrian painter who lived from 12th June 1890 to 31st October 1918. He died from Spanish Flu in the epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands.

His work, especially his drawings and paintings of women, was considered by many in his lifetime to be obscene and immoral, and he was imprisoned for distributing immoral drawings, after having been arrested for the seduction of a minor, a charge which was overthrown.

In a successful exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London in 2014, entitled The Radical Nude, many of his paintings of women were shown. Jonathan Jones described Schiele as a ‘feminist’, and the work as ‘savagely direct’. (Jones 2014). He argues that Schiele loved women, unlike many others in his timwe, such as Picasso and some of the surrealists.


Jones, Jonathan. (2014) ‘Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude review – a feminist artist ahead of his time.’ In: The Guardian [online] At: (Accessed on 5/09/2015)

Tracey Emin

Tracy Emin

She was born in Croydon in 1963. By 1997, she was a well-known and contoversial artist and defining representative of the ‘Young British artists’.

Her work is dominated by ideas of self-portraiture, and incorporates biography and autobiography.

She has worked in many fields and applications, including drawing, painting, writing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, applique, poetry, neon works, film, video, performance and installation.

She has eschewed the trend in contempory art for the parodic, ironic and intellectually rhetorical, to focus on the theme of sincerity in art, for the display of feelings and emotions. In this she has similarities with the motivations of Louise Bourgeois, and has been similarly labelled as a “confessional artist”.

In the early 1990s Emin suffered a period of significant depression during which time she lost all self-belief and faith and destroyed her work. The impact of this period upon her work has been profound and she has been quoted as saying, in relation to her recovery that she ‘realised if I was to make art, it couldn’t be about a fucking picture…it had to be about where it was really coming from.’ (Neal Brown 2006:12).

Emin was brought up in Margate, She had a working-class upbringing, and her family structure was unusal, since she and her twin brothers were raised by her mother Pam Cashin, and her father Envin Emin, who had fathered the children during an extra-marital affair, following which he divided his time between his two families. He was a Cypriot who came to the UK in 1948, without any education. He suffered with addiction to gambling and alcohol. Tracey and her mother and brother lived in a number of places, following their itinerate father, who moved them for a short time to Turkey. They were financially poorly resourced and suffered racial ostracisation. She missed a lot of schooling due to illness, and truanting and finally left at thirteen.

As a young girl she suffered exploitation and sexual abuse and was raped at thirteen. These experiences have clearly had a major influence upon the nature and direction of her work. She is very clear about how her background has affected her, particularly in her feelings of ostracisation and being unaccepted when she attended Maidstone Art College and The Royal College of Art. She has said about how her background affected her: “Lots.The fact that I’m not Anglo-Saxon, I’m half Cypriot. The fact that my Dad came here in 1948. The fact that my father never went to school. The fact that I’m the first woman in my family to have an education. The fact tha I’m the first woman in my family to have a degree. The fact that I left school at thirteen. The fact that I went to a secondary modern school. The fact that I haven’t got a rounded British accent. The fact that I’m not middle class. The fact that I had to work really hard to get through things.” (Brown, N 2001:15).

Tracey Emin is well-known for her small monoprints, which cover a number of themes, both autobiographical and describing nature. She exhibited a series of eight monoprints of birds in 1993, tender, beautiful in their simplicity and optimistic in their impact. They contrast strongly with her more personal depictions which often depict complex emotional states, sometimes positive but often highly self-critical and self-depracatory.

A series of appliqued quilts, using fabrics saved from childhood and other milestone events in her life, have stimulated interest and debate about the role of women, female artists, the explicit nature of her text incorporated in the works.

Emin acknowledges that the work of Egon Schiele has influenced her, and he was, in turn, influenced by Vincent Van Gogh. Neal Brown (2006) argues that her work is defined by ‘poeticised truth, arrived at through the vehicle of mediated autobiographical truth’. Brown goes on to draw parrallels with the “confessional Poets” such as Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton, Stevie Smith and Sylvia Plath.

Egon Schiele dwelt on considerations of eroticism and childhood sexuality to a moral extreme, using vulnerable models, often children. Emin’s work frequently covers the same concerns but is unashamedly self-revalatory in as much as she uses herself and her own life as the vehicle and model of her enquiries.

In 2010, Turner Contempory , Margate, commissioned Emin to make a neon work for the facade of a small building close to the gallery, Droit House. She created a pink neon text in her own handwriting I Never stopped Loving You, a declaration of her affection for her home town.

In 2012 the Turner Contempory brought together an impressive body of Emin’s work, which was exhibited alongside a small number of works by J W Turner and Auguste Rodin, in an exhibition titled She Lay Down Beneath the Deep Blue Sea. William Feaver wrote in the exhibition catalogue, ‘Art reflects art and one of the delights of the new is that it brings with it fresh takes on the old. There’s always pressure to achieve something unprecedented but then, surprise over, the past reasserts itself and every achievement falls into line.’ (Feaver 2012)

This consideration was brought into even sharper focus in the astonishing exhibition The Last Great Adventure is You, at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsley in 2014. Guardian art critic, Johnathan Jones wrote about her previously unrevealed talent in drawing. “Drawing is a cruel art… it imposes rules, traditions and standards that an artist cannot simply ignore.” He goes on to argue that Tracey Emin proves though her beautiful and evocative drawings of the female nude, that she is indeed an artist that can draw and draw powerfully and with great emotion and at times raw pain and despair.

He describes her as an expressionist. He remarks that just as Michal angelo knew that the human figure is as expressive as the human face, so does Emin.

He hails her as “the most important British artist of her generation”.


Brown, Neal. (2006) Tracey Emin. London:Tate Publishing

Feaver, W. (2012) Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Beneath the Deep Blue Sea. Margate: Turner Contempory 26th May – 23rd September 2012

Jones, Jonathan (2014) ‘Tracey Emin: The Last Great Adventure is You review – a lesson in how to be a real artist.’In The Guardian [online] At: (Accessed on 5/09/2015)

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

Munch was born in Norway on 12th December 1863 and died on 23rd January 1944. He was a painter and printmaker. His work is intensely emotional and exposes deep psychological disturbances and as such greatly influenced the developing school of German Expressionism and built upon the foundations of late 19th century Symbolism.

Munch suffered much anguish during his childhood, and themes arising from this re-surface time and again throughout his work. He was the second of five children, and the elder son. His early childhood was overshadowed by the fear of death from tuberculosis, the illness which killed his mother, at the age of thirty, soon after the birth of her fifth child, and then his elder sister.

After Edvard’s mother’s death, his father becames fanatically religious, and instilled the fear of God into his children. His behaviour was erratic and his moods were unpredictable, and the more so after Edvard’s elder sister died. Edvard’s guilt over his survival in the face of his sister’s death continued to disturb him at intervals throughout his life, and provoked the series of paintings The Sick Child 1885 – 1927. There are other examples of works where a singl motif stimulated a series of paintings such as Girls on a Bridge 1902 – 7.

Munch is probaly best known for the painting The Scream 1883, which depicts a stylised, anonymous figure experiencing horrific emotion, to the point that his/her identity is distorted. Fear and threat are frequently encountered in Munch’s art, and he distorts perspective and brings his primary subjects close to the foreground and often cuts them off, in order to portray this.

Whilst he is often considered to be a Symbolist painter, the exhibition at Tate Modern Edvard Munch: the Modern Eye (2012) revealed that he was influenced by modern developments of the time in cinemtography and photography, in which images are brought close to the observer, to give the impression of the subject moving towards the observer. This is seen in The Galloping Horse 1910 – 1912


Ingles, Elizabeth. (2005) Edvard Munch: Love, Jealousy, Death and Sorrow. London: Grange Books

Tate Modern (2012) Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye. London Tate Modern At: (Accessed 5/09/2015)

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

She was born 25 December 1911 died 31 May 2010

A French American artist and sculptor, she became known as Spiderwoman for her huge sculptures of spider-figures, cast in bronze.

The first ten yeras of her career were dedicated to paintings and works on paper. Between 1945 and 1947 she created a series of paintings known as Femme-Maison which have a surreal and tragi-comic quality, depicting the oversize figure of a woman trapped inside a house. These have come to represent the situation of being female, jostling the conflicting demands of motherhood, domestic responsibility and life as an artist trying to make her way. She explored the links between one’s physical home and psychological habitat through much of her working life.

Her parents owned a company which restored and sold medieval and rennaisance tapestries, and Louise developed skills in drawing which were put to use in the family business. She started to study mathematics, physics and chemistry, but later moved to study art in the studis of various artists in Paris. In 1938 she met and married Robert Goldwater, and art critic, and moved with him to New York, where she started to develop further as an artist.

Her early paintings are personal and emotional, but by the mid-forties, she was clearly influenced by her Cubist teachers and was painting grid-like, boxed compositions, with heavy use of line, strong shapes and blocked colours. her work was exhibited alongside other American painters such as Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Although their work reflected the influence of surrealism from Erope, Bourgeois rejected the label and considered herself an Existentialist.

As a mother to three children, she was, in this time, balancing the demands of three children with her wish to make her art. There was no major legacy of feminist art practice upon which to draw, and in her representation of the physical and psychological pressures of domestic life, she found ways to question the validity of the experience of female artists, and provided a lead for others to follow.

Not only was she struggling to find her voice as a female artist at this time, she was also struggling to find the medium which best suited her expressive drives. She gave up painting and moved into sculpture.

Her early sculptures were figure-like totemic, rigid forms made,  from wood, sometimes salvaged redwood, which were known as Personages. She stated that they were a kind of memorial to those she had left behind in France. The approach she used became known as Assemblage, the most basic definition for which is an artistic process whereby found or “readymade” objects are brought together to make a sculptural composition (Coxon, A 2010:28). It is therefore a three-dimensional form of collage, with its roots in the Cubist compositions of Picasso, Braque and Gris.

In 1966, a writer and curator Lucy Lippard showed some of Bourgeois’ works of the time, which were suggestive of organic primitive life-forms such as amoebae. The exhibition was entitled Eccentric Abstraction, and incorporated Bourgeois’ amorphous plaster and latex pieces with a parrallel to the trend of cool hard-edged Minimalism and its use of industrial materials. However, Bourgeois was always driven to say something, rather than simply to explore the materials, which for her were only interesting insofar as they could be used to express certain emotional or psychological states.

In 1968 Bourgeois created her phallic sculpture, Fillette, which combines the male and female genitalia, and shines a light on the concept of male vulnerability and female protectiveness. The form was made in different versions and materilas and was sometimes hung from the ceiling, on a meathook, or a twisted wire. According to Bourgeois, “hanging and floating are states of ambivalence” (Meyer Thoss 1992:69, cited in Coxon 2010).

In the 1970’s Bourgeois became more closely involved with feminism. These were extremely active years for her, and one of her most important works of the period was a tableau arrangement of bulbous latex forms set within a dark, cloth-lined box, lit so that it emits an eerie red glow. It’s title is The Destruction of the Father and she made a direct link back to her childhood and the tyrannical treatment she experienced from her father at mealtimes.

In the 1990, she moved again to another format, this time using textiles, found in trunks that she had accumulated and kept for decades. She made figurative and abstract sculptures from fabrics that were not previously associated with sculpture and were simultaneously soft and hard.

Bourgeois kept three types of diary, a writing diary, a spoken diary (into a tape recorder) and a drawing diary. She once said: “Drawings are thought feathers, they are ideas that I seize in mid-flight and put down on paper” (Bernadac 1995, cited in Coxon 2010).

She drew on whatever she had to hand, and the resulting images are sometimes figurative and sometimes abstract, and drawn from her imagination.

Throughout her lengthy artistic career, Bourgeois repeatedly explored the theme of gravity, motherhood and maternal loss. This has been linked by her and others, such as Kristeva and Bernadac, to her personal experiences of these life events and her psychological responses. She is quoted as saying: ‘Fear of abandonment has stayed with me my whole life. It began when my father left for the war. It continued when my mother died in 1932. People ask me to “be their mother”. I can’t because I am looking for a mother myself.” (Stoops, S.L 2006:26, cited in Coxon 2010).


Coxon, A. (2010) Louise Bourgeois. London: Tate Publishing

Part 2. Research: Positive and negative space.

Positive and negative space.

Patrick Caulfield Screen Print  Curtain and Bottle 1973, demonstrates the use of positive and negative space powerfully and simply with a few lines and blocked out black space.

Copy of Curtain and Bottle 1973 Patrick Caulfield
Copy of Curtain and Bottle 1973 Patrick Caulfield

Gary Hume’s painting Baby Lucas uses three colours, black, white and violet, to silhouette the form of his infant son against a parent’s body.

Copy of Baby Lucas 2002 Gary Hume
Copy of Baby Lucas 2002 Gary Hume

Many examples of graphic works that exploit the use of negative space create “trompe d’oeil” effects.

Some of Modriani’s still lifes, with their flattening of perspective eliminate negative space between the objects and simplify the background to a horizontal line and change in the muted tone he uses. This has the effect of forcing the eye to take in the image as a whole, rather than drawing it to the objects themselves.

Pablo Picasso in his oil on canvas Pot, Wineglass and Book, 1908 depicts the negative space between the glass and pot in a very geometric way, presumably in a stage towards the development of cubism. The images are already quite stylised. By 1912 the negative space in the oil, Bottle of Pernod and Wineglass has been incorporated into the cubist design in a way I don’t understand.

Part two. Research: Still life genre

Research on composition
The subjects of a still life work can be anything that does not move or is dead. In the seventeeth century the genre of Still Life in the visual arts was relegated to the bottom of the Hierarchy of Arts, because it did not incorporate human subjects. Up to the sixteenth century religious subjects predominated in Western Art, but artists incorporated portrayals of everyday objects, which were often used for their symbolic messages.


Figure 1.The Birth of John the Baptist and the Baptism of Christ, from the ‘Hours of Milan’, 1422. Eyck, Jan van (1390 – 1441)

Compositionally, I wonder if this painting utilises the principle of the Golden Rectangle, with the brilliant red four poster bed in which John the baptist has been born, occupying this space. The red is then echoed around the painting to draw the eye to the other components of the composition.

In the painting by Petrus Christus, ‘The Annunciation’, a vase of lilies occupies the central foreground of the composition. Lilies symbolise virginity, purity of mind, and occupy this prominent position in order to emphasise the pure and undefiled state of Mary.
The strong vertical and horizontal lines hold the composition together, whilst the central line of contrasting tiles (tonally stronger than the surrounding tiles), draws the eye towards the open doorand the depiction of the exterior, which gives the painting depth.


Figure 2. The Annunciation, 1452 (oil on panel)
Artist: Christus, Petrus (1410 – 1476)

15th-century Early Netherlandish painting in illuminated manuscripts and on panels often included stylised and illusionistic displays of flowers and insects.Once printing took the place of illuminated manuscripts the same skills were employed in scientific botanical works. The artist Joris Hoefnagel worked in this way, as demonstrated in his painting below.

Dyptich with flowers and insects

Figure 3. Diptych with flowers and insects, 1591 (marouflage & parchment on panel)
Hoefnagel, Joris (1542 – 1600)

Gradually form the Sixteenth Century onwards, the religious content diminished and the drawing and painting of objects such a foods, meats, game, flowers developed as subjects worthy of study in their own right.This evolution followed the increasing interest in the natural world, and the collection of specimens by wealthy patrons.

By the end of the 16th century, Dutch and Flemish paintings of flowers both as aesthetic objects and religious symbols created a strong market, usually sold through markets and by dealers, rather than as commissioned pieces, thus allowing the artists considerable freedom in their choice of subject matter and composition.
In the work below, by Jan Bruegel the Elder, the tulips together with the diamonds may be signifying the wealth of its purchaser.
The painting uses a muted tonal palette and the eye is drawn around the painting, following the subtle variations in shade between the flowers. The diamonds are easily missed, and I would not have noticed them, if it were not for the title of the work. I do not know if this is a deliberate tactic used by the artist to relegate the material trappings of wealth to a lower order than those that are “God-given”.


Figure 4.Vase of Flowers with Diamonds on the Table
Brueghel, Jan the Elder (1568 – 1625)

The partition of the Christian faith into Catholicism and Protestanism influenced the subject matter of still life painting, since the Dutch reformed Protestan Church did not allow the portrayal of religious subjects. Thus in the Catholic Southern Netherlands, Antwerp artists Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick van Balen began to paint images with a central, often religious image, encirled by wreaths or garlands of flowers and foliage.

madonna and child in garland
Figure 5. Madonna and Child in a Garland of Fruit and Flowers. (oil on panel) 1620
Brueghel, Jan the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens

Garland paintings as they came to be known, were simple in their composition, using the circular arrangement of organic structures to emphasise and to draw the eye to the religious figures. This style acheived great popularity as decorative pieces in peoples’ homes.

In the 1640’s Flemish artists such as Frans Synders and Adriaen van Utrecht began a separate genre of still life which emphasised abundance, incorporating varied objects, often including fruit and flowers, dead game, food stuffs, alongside living people and animals.


Figure 6. A Larder Still Life with Fruit, Game and a Cat by a Window. (oil on canvas) Snyders or Snijders, Frans (1579 – 1657).

In this composition, the sumptuous basket of fruit, with its contrasting tones and colours acts as a focal poit. The bright shine on the grapes is echoed by the light issuing from the window and I see the eyes of the cat fixed on the bared teeth of the dog in the lower left corner of the composition. My eye is then drawn back to the friuts and then round in a smaller circle to the rabbit tail, the breasts of the dead game birds and lastly the pale asparagus shoots. all this is acheived through the use of light tones, including the spreading white fabric laid across the deep red table cloth. I love this painting for its humour and its over-statement.

Another popular variation was the so-called vanitas paintings which included objects symbolic of the impermanance of life amongst the sumptuous variety of objects assimilated for display. The fruits and flowers painted were sometimes showing signs of early decay to bring the point home more strongly.


Figure 7.Vanitas, 1661 (oil on wood)
Colyer or Collier, Edwaert (1702 – 1702)


This contempory work was part of the Summer  Exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2015:

Vanitas. Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015
Figure 8. Vanitas. Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015



Still life production in the eigtheenth century reduced, but followed the same style as that of the 17th-century.
In the nineteenth century, the rise of the European Acadamies of Art resulted in the relgation of the genre of still life to the lowest in the “Hierarchy of Genres”.Artists such as Constable and Corot used landscapes to glorify nature rather than still life. The Realist and Romantic artistic revolutions from the 1830’s on led to the inclusion of still life into the work of artists painting in those styles, such as Francisco Goya, Gustave Courbet and Eugene Delacroix.They used natural subjects such as flowers and fruits and dear game, fish, and were largely representational in their approach, although Delacroix in his Still Life with Lobsters has a romantisised landscape for the background for his subjects.



Figure 8. Still Life with Lobsters, 1826-27 (oil on canvas)
Delacroix, Ferdinand Victor Eugene (1798 – 1863)

The Academies in Europe declined, and the rise of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism resulted in an increased enthusiasm for the genre of still life and a change in subjects. There was a move away from the predominance of dark backgrounds and clour became a dominant feature, not always represented as true to life.There were also deliberate moves away from true perspective, and this foreshadowed the development of the cubist movement, especially in the work of Paul Cezanne.


Figure 9. The Black Marble Clock, c.1870 (oil on canvas)
Cezanne, Paul (1839 – 1906)

The first forty years of the Nineteenth century was a time of innovation and movement within the art world as the approach to art moved ever further from realism towards abstraction. This trend was clear in the treatment of the still life works of Les Nabis, a group which developed from the post-impressionist movement and included Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard.

(c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Figure 11. Pierre Bonnard Still Life 1922
(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Figure 12. Edouard Vuillard. Le pot des fleurs (1901)

Henri Matisse flattened and altered objects even further, as did other exponents of the Fauvist movement, Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck.

DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Figure 13. Andre Derain Still Life



DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULTATION; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Figure 14. Henri Matisse 1924-25 The Pink Tablecloth


In this work, the designs in the fabric of the cloth and the wallpaper are as important in the composition as the objects, which are painted almost as if the form part of the designs.


The objects in this drawing below by Georges Braque are simply and sparsely outlined and the perspective is not true, especially for the basket of apples which is seen from above. There is subtle shadowing over the entire picture plane which suggests that the objects are bathed in light coming through a window from in front, and that the shadows may be from leaves on trees or some other changeable forms. There is no strong influence of cubism in this work, which has a delicacy which I have not seen in the paintings of the same artist.
Georges Braque 1882–1963

Still Life 1924 by Georges Braque 1882-1963
Figure 15. Still Life 1924 Georges Braque
Guitar and Jug 1927 by Georges Braque 1882-1963
Figure 16. Guitar and Jug 1927 Georges Braque 1882-1963


Picasso’s “Still life with Chair Caning” is another bold move in the deconstruction of objects and uses a combination of real (but illusiory) oil-cloth, rope and a cubist painting depicting the objects on a table top.

Still life with Chair Caning

Figure 17 Picasso, P. (1912). Still Life with Chair Caning.

See the following link for a discussion of the work.

American Artists, becoming aware of the Modernist movement in Europe, began to combine American realism with Cubist-derived abstraction to produce works such as the two below.


Figure 18. Davis, S. Lucky Strike 

In Mexico Frida Kahlo began to paint still lifes in their own surrealist style, using exotic friuts and indigenous motifs.

Frieda Kahlo Still life with Pitahaya

Figure 19. Frieda Kahlo (1938) Still Life: Pitahaya

The pitahaya is a yellow fruit which is fleshy and watery, growing in the desert. kahlo has painted it in a decaying state, and it has been suggested that the painting represents her idea of death.

Still Life 1960 by Giorgio Morandi 1890-1964
Figure 19.Still Life 1960 Giorgio Morandi


This painting is typical of many by the same artist, in its subdued colours and tones and the choice of objects. The objects are viewed at a point only slightly higher than eyelevel and they overlap significantly. There is a vertical line mid way up the canvas where the openings of the two vessels coincides with a change in shape of the flask. This blurs the edges of the objects, especially as the flask and cylindrical vessel are almost the same colour. Similarly, the conical edge of the flask not in shadow is barely discernable from the background. In spite of the depiction of shadow, the whole composition has a flatness, and is understated.

Abstract Expressionism reduced still lifes to blocks of colour and form and it wasn’t until the emergence of Pop Art in the 1960’s and 70’s that physical objects were used as subjects, but they were generally used to highlight the state of commercialism in Western culture, rather than to communicate something about the objects and their arrangement.

The following works are examples of abstract expressionist still lifes.

Still Life with Pomegranates 1963 by Elizabeth Blackadder born 1931
Figure 21. Still Life with Pomegranates 1963 Elizabeth Blackadder
Blue Still Life 1980 by Hans Landsaat born 1935
Figure 22. Blue Still Life 1980 Hans Landsaat

The work below, which belongs to the style “Tachisme”, is interesting in its abstraction of the objects and their positioning and flattening in perspective which creates an impression of a stone wall or grid.

Ochre Still Life 1958 by William Scott 1913-1989
Figure 23.Ochre Still Life 1958 William Scott
Laboratory Still Life No. 3 1988 by Tony Cragg born 1949
Figure 24. Laboratory Still Life No. 3 1988 Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg has used objects relating to scientific research in a series called Laboratory Still Life.

James Valerio draws photorealist still lifes which acheive a portrayal of the texture of his subjects that is so real one wants to reach out and touch the paper.

James vallerio

Figure 25. James Vallerio.(1996) Towel

Stephen Fisher also draws photorealistically and his compositions draw the viewer into the picture and set up a questioning of the purpose behind the actual process of drawing, when the images could have been produced with far less effort digitally. Why go to the trouble?

In sharp contrast, Katie Sollohub, selected for the 2014 Jerwood Drawing Prize, presented a charcoal on paper drawing entitled On the Edge which is rough, takes little account of perspective and makes little attempt to be realistic. In a Still Life painting she is more representational, but still not realistic.

Katie sollohub

Figure 26. Katie Sollohub. (2011) Gladioli and the Red Shoe



Figure 1. Van Eyck, J. (1442) The Birth of John the Baptist  [Parchment] Available at: %5BAccessed on 17/02/2016]

Figure 2. Christus, P. (1452) The Annunciation [oil on panel] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 3. Hoefnagel, J. (1591) Diptych with Flowers and Insects [oil] Available at: [Accessed17/02/2016]

Figure 4. Brueghel, Jan The Elder. (1568-1625) Vase of Flowers with Diamonds on the Table [oil]. Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 5. Brueghel, Jan The Elder and Rubens, Peter, Paul. (1620). Madonna and Child with Garland of Fruit and Flowers [oil]. Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 6. Synders, F. (1579-1657). A Larder Still Life with Fruit, Game and a Cat by a Window. Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 7. Collyer, Edwert (1663) Vanitas Still life with Books and Manuscripts and a Skull [oil on panel] Available at:[Accessed 17/02/2016].

Figure 8.

Figure 9. Delacroix, E. (1826). Still Life with Lobsters [oil] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 10. Cezanne, P. (1870) The Black Marble Clock [oil] Available at: [Acessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 11. Bonnard, Pierre (1922) Still life [Oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2016]

Figure 12. Vuillard, E. (1901) Le pot des fleurs [Oil on millboard] Available at: [Accessed on 18/02/2016]

Figure 13. Derain, Andre. Still Life [Oil] Available at: [Accessed on 18/02/2016]

Figure 14. Matisse, H. The Pink Tablecloth Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2018]

Figure 15. Braque, G. (1924) Nature Morte [Charcoal and graphite on paper] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2016]

Figure 16. Braque, G. (1927) Guitar and Jug [Oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2016]

Figure 17. Picasso, P. (1912) Still Life with Chair Caning [Oil on oil-cloth on canvas edged with rope] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/2016]

Figure 18. Davis, S. (1921) [Oil on canvas] Lucky Strike Available at: %5BAccessed 21/02/2016]

Figure 19. Kahlo, F. (1938) [Oil on aluminium] Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2016]

Figure 20. Morandi, G. (1960) [Oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2016]

Figure 21. Blackadder, E. (1963) [oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2016]

Figure 22. Landsaat, F. (1980) [sceenprint on paper] Available at: [Accessed on 21/02/2016]

Figure 23. Scott, W. (1958)  Still Life in Ochre [oil on canvas] Available [Accessed 21/02/2016}

Figure 24. Cragg, T. (1983) Laboratory Still Life. No. 3. [Aquatint on paper] Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2016]

Figure 25.Vallerio, J. (1996) Towel [Graphite pencil on paper] Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2016]

Figure 26. Sollohub, K. (2011) Gladioli and the Red Shoe [oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2016]


Liedtke, Walter. “Still-Life Painting in Northern Europe, 1600–1800.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

Further Reading

Wikipedia (2016) Still life Available at: [Accessed 17/09/2015]