History of Still Life Sculpture
Still lifes have been a staple in Western art since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Early still lifes were the subject of wall frescoes, vases, and floor mosaics. As art academies rose in Europe, the still life genre was scorned in favor of those, like portraiture, with more dynamic subjects. By the 19th century, however, modernism and other movements sought to break away from these traditional academies, and still lifes once again became a popular art form. The trompe l’oeil painting practice, in which artists rendered objects hyper realistically and painted shadows to make the subjects appear three-dimensional, most likely led to the production of still life sculptures.
Still Life Sculpture Techniques
Artists who create still life sculptures use a variety of techniques and mediums, ranging from bronze to stainless steel. Early modern sculptures that could be classified as still lifes because they depict inanimate objects like shoes or cups toe the line between sculpture and readymade, found objects. Many artists also collected and arranged preexisting objects to create sculptural arrangements that mimic still life paintings. Other artists cast actual sculptures that resemble the objects in their still lifes. Some sculptors also cast metal works but paint the objects they wish to represent on them as a kind of riff on the age-old genre.
Artists Known For Still Life Sculpture
Dada artist Meret Oppenheim created sculptures like “My Nurse” (1936) out of found objects and materials. This work, which consists of a pair of leather heels bound by string on a silver platter, can be classified as a still life in that it depicts an arranged scene of inanimate objects. Pablo Picasso’s sculpture “Still Life” (1914) played with dimensions. He mounted this work on a wall and had different elements, like a table with fringe, jut out into the viewer’s space. Pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann also experimented with sculptural still lifes. Lichtenstein painted bronze casts of his infamous brushstrokes as well as pitchers, apples, and other traditional still life subjects. Wesselmann cast oversized steel versions of bras and cigarettes, as shown by his “Smoker Study Sculpture” (1981). Jeff Koons also played with still life sculpture, creating stainless steel versions of everyday objects like vases in his statue “Flowers” (1986). Other still life sculptures artists include Richard Artschwager, Allan McCollum, and Yinka Shonibare.