Contemporary Approaches to Still-Life Painting

Conversation by Alexander Volkov limited edition giclee still life painting

Still-life painting has historically been one of the most prominent genres in Western painting. It originated in the Middle Ages, inspired by ancient Greco-Roman art. Dutch and Flemish painters, in particular, took to it in the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to it being recognized as a distinct art genre. As a matter of fact, the English word “still life” derives from the Dutch word “stilleven.”

Early still-life art often contained religious and mythological symbolism. Over time, artists steadily began to incorporate more relatable elements into their paintings. Contemporary still-life artists, inspired by 20th century pop culture, the “found art” mentality, and New Realism began to push the traditionally narrow boundaries of this genre to include elements like technology, media, and photography.

Modern still-life paintings are often defined by the representation of objects with a double characteristic. They’re inanimate and an indistinguishable part of daily life. However, on canvas, they’re given a new lease of life. Artists are inspired by the paradox of reimagining routine, everyday objects as something extraordinary, while dusting off an old genre through ultra-modern muses.

Contemporary Masters of Still-Life Painting

Read on to learn about the approach modern still-life painters use, including some whose work is showcased at Marcus Ashley Gallery.

Alexander Volkov

Summer Rain original still life painting in oil by Alexander Volkov
“Summer Rain” by Alexander Volkov, original oil on canvas

Alexander Volkov is the present-day master of realism. He paints stunning still lifes and landscapes that often center around themes of rural America, which he calls home. He often seeks to transport the viewer to an imaginary yet familiar environment where time moves slowly without the pressing distractions of modern life.

Born in St. Petersburg, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 has since built an impressive portfolio of contemporary still-life paintings. His favorite device is the interplay of light and shadow to lend mood and narrative to each piece. His works often serve as a focal point of light in any space, regardless of the intensity of illumination around. The artwork also tends to mimic the sun’s transition and the changes in natural lighting through the day.

Volkov considers himself “self-taught” only inasmuch as anyone who has constantly studied art and artists all his life can be self-taught. He draws inspiration from past masters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, and William Turner, but also from Einstein, Beethoven, and Tarkovsky, as well as the people he knew and grew up with, both artists and otherwise.

Eric Christensen

Eric Christensen is a watercolor hyperrealism artist. The phrase “watercolor hyperrealism” is a bit of an oxymoron, since they’re rarely seen together in the world of fine art. In fact, Christensen is today the only known artist capable of producing hyperrealistic art through standard transparent watercolors. He uses a patented technique to achieve this, which lends his paintings the look and feel of a high-definition photograph.

Over the years, he has built an impressive reputation for showcasing the California wine country. Based in Napa Valley, he creates modern landscapes and contemporary still-life paintings that feel grand and intimate at the same time. They often incorporate a variety of elements including wine, food, flowers, and fruit, all rendered in vibrant, saturated colors.

Christensen spends a lot of time photographing his subjects before he gets down to painting them. Each piece takes months to finish and he only releases four to five originals each year.

Shades of Summer by Eric Christensen

“Shades of Summer” by Eric Christensen, original watercolor on paper

Michael Flohr

Martini for Two by Michael Flohr
“Martini for Two” by Michael Flohr, limited edition giclee

Michael Flohr’s contemporary still-life paintings are like nothing you’ve ever seen in the genre. His style is perhaps best described as a kaleidoscope of impressionism and abstract expressionism. His art captures scenes of busy city life, including rainswept city streets, bars, and cafes, often with a very retro feel. He doesn’t necessarily paint to invite deep technical appraisal. Rather, he likes creating paintings that simply bring beauty and please the eye.

Inspired by Cezanne, Flohr too uses pigment straight from the tube to create vivid backdrops with bold brushstrokes and almost a mosaic effect.

Maya Eventov

Floral Hydrangea by Maya Eventov

Floral Hydrangea – 189427 by Maya Eventov, original acrylic on canvas

Maya Eventov’s work is often a smorgasbord of bold and gossamer pastel hues that seem to thrum with life. Her contemporary still-life paintings use rich textures, expressive paint strokes, and exquisite light work to create an imaginative world that never fails to draw you in.

Eventov was born in St. Petersburg, where she spent countless hours at local museums studying the work of post-impressionist masters. She developed her trademark technique of etching in oil from Fabergé egg designs she encountered during this time. In 1990, she immigrated to Canada, where she lives with her family. Her present-day work often draws inspiration from Mediterranean themes with bright colored floral arrangements.

Browse More Contemporary Still-Life Paintings at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Still-life aficionado? Browse through our extensive collection of still-life paintings for sale at Marcus Ashley Gallery. We host works from national and international artists, many of them modern-day greats of still-life painting. 

Explore our gallery’s art services, including custom framing and financing options to enrich your buying experience. Reach out to our art consultants for expert advice on contemporary still-life paintings.