EssayReformation, Revolution and Resistance: A History of Still Life Painting, 2020

2020 has been the year of enforced domesticity. It has been time spent in the home, surrounded by all of our neglected clutter – those objects that inspired a fleeting madness within us, that we simply had to own, only to find that lasting contentment is not found within a Quesadilla press. The scarcity brought on by panic-buying created a sight not seen in generations: gigantic supermarkets stripped bare. No longer could we justify purchasing fruit and leaving it to rot in wooden bowls like some sacrifice to the gods of self-delusion. This period has highlighted the value of everything. Even supplying home-grown fruit such as the apple is not straightforward. International workers were needed before our farms played tribute to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. With the mundane rising so forcefully into our primary focus this year, it seems appropriate to examine the relationship between art and the mundane. Despite the genre facing periods of derision, great artists have never shied from depicting the every day. Indeed, Still life painting has often competed against more dramatic subjects and styles. It outlasted them all. It can now be a flag for new-found modesty; a symbol of our collective re-evaluation.