13 Famous Still Life Paintings That Showed the Most Reality

From Rembrandt to Monet, many artists portrayed still life. While it gets hard to know all, these are 13 famous still life paintings to know about.

Famous still life paintings

It is easy to see why so many people are moved by Leornardo’s Last Supper or Peter Paul Ruben’s The Elevation of The Cross. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy noticing the expressions and gestures of the masses or witnessing Christ’s dramatic movements and restraints as he forgave and calmed the crowd in either case? These pictures peak due to motion and the presence of time and space, but what about the illustrations representing a still life? Now, a lot of people may have in mind what is still life artwork and how you notice them at a single glance. So, let me explain it to you in simple terms. Still life paintings feature flowers, pots, tableware, vegetables and fruits, and all kinds of objects as the subject. It is common for them to insert a dramatic move through the subject’s contrast to convey meaning or distinguish the ordinary household objects through positioning. Their beautiful representation of everyday things through paint and colour makes them remarkable and a source of delight. In this article, I will provide some of the best and famous still life paintings you should know about.

Famous Still Life Artworks In The World To Know About.

1. Still Life With Melon by Claude Monet.

ArtistClaude Monet
Year Painted1872
MediumOil on canvas
Size20 7/8×28 3/4 in / 53 × 73 cm
Where is it housed?​Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

The painting depicts some fruits on a white tablecloth. Upon looking at it, the first thing that stands out to a viewer is the blue-designed floral plate, followed by the bowl of peaches, and finally, the cantaloupe. Monet exemplified the aesthetics of impressionism here through his lush and light-dappled air craftmanship. If you look closely, the brush strokes give you the feel of abstractionism in a composition. There is a wise use of light and shadow, which makes the objects appear crispier. This famous still life artwork represents the nostalgic table setting of daily household objects in a very appealing way.

Still life with melon by one of the famous still life artists Claude Monet
Still life with melon by Claude Monet | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

2. Still Life by Frida Kahlo.

ArtistFrida Kahlo
Year Painted1942
MediumOil on copper plate
MovementModernism, Magical Realism
Size63 cm in diameter
Where is it housed?Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico

The composition is a realistic depiction of the dreams of Frida. She wisely used symbolism through the fruits, leaves, roots and flowers here. It includes sexual references with an approach to express a contribution towards feminism and her inner turmoil due to relationship, child impotency and sickness. In a real sense, the open papaya resembles a womb with the sperms flowing. Next to it, the coral fungus seems like the female ovaries, and then the bananas are the open cherimoya showing female genitalia. At the corners and over the boundary, there is a wise use of flowers, which depict the precious movement of the conceive of female eggs. The use of bright colours and Mexican components further makes this a remarkable creation among the famous still life paintings.

Frida Kahlo Still life artwork
Still life by Frida Kahlo | Source: Google Arts and Culture

3. Still Life With Cantaloupe by William Mason Brown.

ArtistWilliam Mason Brown
Year Painted1880
MediumOil on canvas
Size35.5 x 46 cm / 14 x 18 1/2 in
Where is it housed?The Cleveland Museum of Art

The still life artwork depicts the fruits with the careful representation of homeliness on a table and a woven fine tablecloth. With the soft bruises, it is a portrayal of a romantic gateway through the pictures of fruits. There is a contrived arrangement of fruits, flowers, butter knife, and walnut with actual photographic clarity. The use of fluid style to brighten the objects here in a darker background is notable. The clarity of the image is so exemplary that even the spikes of the central fruit are clearly visible.

Still life with cantaloupe by William Mason Brown
Still life with cantaloupe by William Mason Brown | Source: Cleveland Museum of Art

4. Still Life With Golden Goblet by Pieter de Ring.

ArtistPieter de Ring
Year Painted1650
MediumOil on canvas
Size100 x 85 x 9 cm
Where is it housed?Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

One of the famous still life artists known for his opulent banquet still life art. This artwork represents fruits in a gorgeous colour with striking contrast and sharp lines. Seafood and fruits are the dominant subjects in the composition, however, the most striking object is the red lobster sitting in the foreground. The artist clearly rendered excellent realistic properties, anatomy and colouring of the article in the composition. If we go on to check the symbolism behind the painting, the red lobster represents luxury, death and wealth. But since the lobster represents red colour, which means it is cooked and so dead, this one of the famous still life paintings leaves us with a message that all the worldly pleasures represented by fruits and vegetables will vanish after mortality. Or should I say that the artist’s lobster ironically represents the excess and end of excess?

Still Life With Golden Goblet by Pieter de Ring
Still Life With Golden Goblet by Pieter de Ring | Source: Rijks Museum

5. Still Life With Mackerel by Anne Vallayer Coster.

ArtistAnne Vallayer Coster
Year Painted1787
MediumOil on canvas
Size60.5 x 49.4 cm
Where is it housed?Kimbell Art Museum

Featuring a masterpiece of colour, composition, and imitation, still life artwork is one of the most impressive works of Anne Vallayer Coster. An elegant, simple, and sumptuous feast dominates the composition, representing luxury and wealth. The painting consists of the dominant elements like the prestigious mackerel fish, cruet stand, verrière or wine glass cooler, flowers, and halved lemons on the white linen cloth. The use of Mackerel fish marks the arrival of spring in Paris and is an uncommonly rare subject to show the exquisite and expensive taste in the artistic world. You will notice that the artist’s approach was to showcase her luxurious taste through her choice of objects in the composition.

Still Life With Mackerel by Anne Vallayer Coster
Still Life With Mackerel by Anne Vallayer Coster | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

6. Living Still Life by Salvador Dalí.

ArtistSalvador Dalí
Year Painted1956
MediumOil on canvas
Size49 1/4 x 63 in
Where is it housed?The Dali (Salvador Dalí Museum)

When Salvador painted this composition, he left Surrealism far behind and started including himself immersed in the technique called Nuclear Mysticism. He created this artwork to determine the reanimation of his art with spirituality. Also, he used the emerging theories of physics and molecular biology to reveal the mysteries of religion here.

The composition portrays the importance of the spiral, which Dali thought to be the most perfect nature symbol from the cosmic order. So you can witness the spiral structures throughout this work, from the rhinoceros horn in the upper left to the fruit dishes and cauliflower head in the form of a meteor. It is one of the famous still life paintings or as it should be said, the only artwork that made us believe in the existence of God through physics.

Living still life by Salvador Dali, famous still life paintings
Living still life by Salvador Dalí | Source: Dali Paintings

7. Still Life With a Skull and a Writing Quill by Pieter Claesz Dutch.

ArtistPieter Claesz Dutch
Year Painted1628
MediumOil on wood
Size9 1/2 x 14 1/8 in / 24.1 x 35.9 cm
Where is it housed?​Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The composition dates back to the early life of Claesz. He was the one who gave an extraordinary presence to the familiar things. For instance, in this composition, you see a skull, an overturned glass Roemer with a reflection, an expired lamp and a writing quill, which all symbolically represent the attributes of a writer suggesting that worldly efforts are ultimately in vain. One notable thing about this portrayal is that there is simplicity and directness. Take into consideration the smoke wisps and reflections in the glass, which are indicative of fleeting existence and are common to Dutch paintings. In this case, the skull is more than an intrusion into human activity and the mark of a scholar or philosopher. It signified the belief in spiritual life after death for the original owner.

Still Life With a Skull and a Writing Quill by Pieter Claesz
Still Life With a Skull and a Writing Quill by Pieter Claesz | Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

8. Still Life With Peacocks by Rembrandt Van Rijn.

ArtistRembrandt van Rijn
Year Painted1639
MediumOil on canvas
Size145 x 135.5 cm
Where is it housed?Rijks Museum

Rembrandt is one of the greatest baroque artists of his time with typical realism in his artworks. Here, the composition includes a dining area scene through the eyes of a young boy. During that time, peacock meat was often a part of meat pies, so he tried to get it in this dining room. As we see in the artist’s storeroom, after the bird died, it was hung to bleed out immediately. There is no doubt that he was captivated by the plumage’s splendid markings, and the riot of colours: blue, green, and yellow ochre. The brush strokes you see in this famous still life art are clear and well-defined.

Still Life With Peacocks By Rembrandt van Rijn, famous still life paintings
Still Life With Peacocks by Rembrandt van Rijn | Source: Rijks Museum

9. Sunflowers by Vincent Willem van Gogh.

ArtistVincent Willem van Gogh
Year Painted1888
MediumOil on canvas
MovementPost Impressionism
Size92.2 x 73 cm / 36.3 x 29 in
Where is it housed?National Gallery, London

The artist painted this extraordinary piece of Sunflowers with a luminous memory in the depths of the winters of 1889. One thing to be noted here is that Van Gogh painted the sunflowers repeatedly in different arrangements, and this composition is the best hit among others, making it one of the famous still life paintings to be experienced. If you look in proximity, at the shapes, colours and cheerfulness of the delightful flower, you will be appealed by them, just like Vincent was. He tried associating the yellow colour of different shades into this, typically so tough to understand. He took them from sunshine, the south, and Christ. Furthermore, there is one inspiring thing here in these flowers. Few of them would look fresh, and few seem to fade and wilt. It is an exceptional approach of Vincent to show his mind through his beautiful artworks by portraying reality in his works.

Sunflowers still life artwork by Vincent Willem van Gogh
Sunflowers by Vincent Willem van Gogh | Source: Van Gogh Museum

10. Still Life With Fruits and Flowers by Pieter Snijers.

ArtistPieter Snijers
Year PaintedUnknown
MediumOil on canvas
Size58.8 x 49 cm
Where is it housed?Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The artist painted the still life with elements of forest floors, the profuse composition of smaller objects like insects, a vase with a reflection, blossoms, nuts and other items in the interiors. The centre article of the picture is a jug with a golden accent, which includes a reflection of a small boy with a drapery. Further, it also has a golden statue-like figure over the same jug, depicting a young boy. Pieter illustrates the painting with different components, and every single minute creature says aloud a story here.

Still Life With Fruits and Flowers by Pieter Snijers
Still Life With Fruits and Flowers by Pieter Snijers | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

11. A Still Life With Fruit, Dead Game and a Parrot by Jan Fyt.

ArtistJan Fyt
Year PaintedLate 1640s
MediumOil on canvas
Size84.7 x 133.4 cm
Where is it housed?National Gallery, London

In the composition, Jan depicted a hare carcass hung from the fixing of a wall and his wound on a furry stomach. Its leg is flopping lifelessly towards an overflowing basket of fruit. Below it, you see three dead birds with a brace of partridges and a jay. The painting has a precious blue and white porcelain bowl consisting of strawberries, apricots, pears and other fruits. There lies a symbolism here, displayed with the opposites of flora and fauna mixing with life and death. Though the parrot is alive and well, it narrates that eventually, it would meet the same end with an unceremoniously piled with the other dead animals here.

A Still Life With Fruit, Dead Game And A Parrot By Jan Fyt
A Still Life With Fruit, Dead Game and A Parrot by Jan Fyt | Source: National Gallery, London

12. Still Life With Skull Paul Cézanne.

ArtistPaul Cézanne
Year Painted1890-93
MediumOil on canvas
MovementPost Impressionism
Size54 x 65 cm
Where is it housed?Philadelphia Museum of Art

In Still Life with Skull, Cézanne illustrates familiar objects in unexpected and animated ways, bridging the gap between abstraction and illustration. Here, in the composition, you see a human skull atop a loosely folded piece of drapery in this photograph. As a result of its scale, the skull’s curvature reflects the strewn fruit, distinguishing it from the other forms. The tilted plate with the peach or the pears on the edge of the table conveys tension and a sense of precarity. There is a slight distortion in Cézanne’s view of the table on which the skull and fruit are arranged. In the left image, the table is directly in front of the viewer, while in the right image, the table is slightly above the viewer. The painting breaks down the static scenes into a bold geometrical form with the juxtaposition of spatial planes making this one of the more famous still life paintings to set the highest stage.

Still Life With Skull Paul Cézanne
Still Life With Skull Paul Cézanne | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

13. Dressing Table by Amrita Sher-Gil.

ArtistAmrita Sher-Gil
Year Painted1931
MediumOil on canvas
Size45.5 x 53.5 cm
Where is it housed?​National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

The modernist female artist who influenced pre-independence Indian art to a great extent, Amrita Sher-Gil painted the Dressing table which is essentially a real depiction. Influenced by post-expressionism, this artwork exhibits the use of lines for details and neutral colours. What makes it among the famous still life paintings is the adjacency with reality the artist used for depicting a dressing table arranged by women. The presence of objects like a bottle of perfume, the pearl necklace, the flowers and the accessory box are evidence of her feminist inclusion in Indian art. One can also track details through the mirror effect, Sher-Gil gave to the surface of the dressing table.

Dressing Table by Amrita Sher-Gil
Dressing Table by Amrita Sher-Gil | Source: Google Arts and Culture

Final Words.

There isn’t a necessity of asking the question, which of these famous still life paintings do you like. However, one that I may end up asking is which reflected the most realistic attributes to you. The nature and artistry of all of these frames differed vastly, even after falling under the same classification, an art that portrays the nearest reality from different worlds.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is still life art?

Still life art represents inanimate visuals, essentially the ones that are man-made, depictions of nature and portraitures with still objects in the foreground. The oldest living still life paintings trace back to the ancient Graeco-Roman walls. However, it was only in the 17th century when the Netherlands coined the terms still ligende leven or stilleven meaning model lying still.

What are the most famous still life paintings in the world?

While there are several famous still life paintings to learn from, this read lists thirteen that can explain the art style through different depictions.

Who is the famous painter of still life?

There are several painters who made successful attempts to portray still-life depictions. However, some of the famous painters of still life are Caravaggio, Pieter Claesz and Evaristo Baschenis.

Why is still life important in art?

Still life is important as it represents the relationship between art and reality, perception and representation, as well as shows the artist’s views on society.

What is the most expensive still life painting?

Vase with 15 Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh is the most expensive still life painting, auctioned by Christie’s for $39.9 Million in 1987.


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