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Still Life: Art That Brings Comfort in Uncertain Times

Open Culture

There is a quiet, familiar beauty found in still life, a type of art that depicts primarily inanimate objects, like animals, food, or flowers. These comforting images offer a sense of certainty and simplicity in uncertain and complex times. This could explain why over six million Instagram users have fallen in love with still life during the latest round of global lockdowns due to COVID-19.

For many, our lives have become more still—the patterns of daily existence are bounded more than ever by the interior walls of our homes. Therefore, finding comfort in the everyday can bring about some internal peace. At its essence, the still life form has meaning far beyond the physical objects it depicts: it deals with the human condition and life itself. For most of human history, the comfort found in still lifes during precarious times would have been exclusive to those who owned these paintings, hanging them on their walls or keeping them locked away in safes. Today, however, due to the internet and the public domain, millions more have access to these comforting images.

As champions of the public domain and open access to culture, we wanted to share some of our favourite still lifes. Thanks to efforts by Open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) advocates and cultural heritage institutions, these images are accessible to anyone, anywhere to share, reuse, remix, and enjoy.

Still life with pumpkins and cucumbers” by Štefan Michal-Vörös Izbighy, 1734. Image provided by the Slovak National Gallery (public domain).

A Vase of Flowers” by Margareta Haverman, 1716. Provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (public domain).

A Bouquet of Flowers in a Crystal Vase” by Nicolaes van Veerendael, 1662. Provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (public domain).

Roses Still Life” by Robert S. Duncanson, 1842-1848. Provided by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (CC0).

Still Life” by Georg Flegel, probably ca. 1625-30. Provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (public domain).

Still Life” by Marsden Hartley, 1932-1933. Provided by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (CC0).

Still Life with Tea Cup” by Roger Riordan, 1876. Provided by the Smithsonian Design Museum (CC0).

Still Life with Fan and Roses” by Thomas Hovenden. 1874. Provided by the Smithsonian Museum of Art (CC0).

Created your own still life? Openly share it with the world by using CC0 during our #OpenSharingIsCaring challenge running until Sunday, February 14! Details here.

Posted 11 February 2021