Still Life

Still Life

"The aim of Art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance"

Was it Aristotle that said that? Not sure...I think it was. Got it spot on, though, the idea of what this thing we do should be. With Aristotle´s (and your) permission, however, I would like to slightly modify this quote and say that the aim of Art is "to represent NOT JUST the outward appearance of things, BUT ALSO their inward significance". Since that "inward significance" is always subject to an infinite range of personal interpretation, I thought I´d add that little bit of importance of remaining faithful to the physicality of the subject BEFORE aiming to "judge" what the essence is. Be it a woman´s face or a tape dispenser; the human figure or a fire hydrant, everything represented deserves the minimum respect that skillful and intelligent rendering can show.

I think it was J.S.Sargent that commented when asked if he intended to portray his sitter´s personality that he "was not a judge and merely painted what I see". And yet his intelligence and mastery were such that the inward significance mentioned above becomes almost explicit even if it was not the artist´s intention.

That said, I´ve always had a special place in my heart for the still life and have always tried to engage in a serious study of objects throughout a period of many days despite having oftentimes heard the comment that still life is "stale" and does not "appeal". A good still life should not be stale and should have its appeal and even its "wow factor" just as much as any other genre of painting. If one aims to paint that tape dispenser, it should result in a portrait of the tape dispenser. Its inward significance should be explicit enough so that if it ever hangs in a show, it should not need that wordy, explanatory plaque beside it.

I thought I´d dedicate a special section in this blog to the oft-maligned Still Life, starting off with a few selected pieces of mine from over the years, some of which have appeared elsewhere here in this blog on previous posts. I´d love for you readers to comment and share with me your own favorite pieces of nature morte or naturaleza muerta -- (misnomers in my opinion), from your own easels or from other artists...

"Sidra"  oil on linen 73 x 100 cm (Private collection)

"Still life with Mandarins"  oil on linen 65 x 81cm (Private collection, Madrid, Spain)

"Three Pears"  oil on linen 65 x 100 cm (Private collection)

"Esqueje"  oil on canvas on panel 40 x 80 cm (Collection of the artist)

"Ocho cebollas"  oil on panel 46 x 38 (Collection of the artist)

"Grapes"  oil on panel 27 x 23 cm (Private collection, Melbourne, Australia)

"Quiet presence"  oil on panel (Collection of the artist)


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Carlos. I learned that you painted the retablo of the Holy Family Chapel in our School, PAREF-Southridge, Philippines. I wanted to know more details. Among other things, who are those people there at the centerpiece? I could send you a photo, in case you may have forgotten :) Pls email me at Thanks.