Still Life

It could have been a random event, but I like to think it was fate.

Two years ago I found myself in sunny California, using my artistic eye to help a client stage her home. It was a beautiful home, but I knew it could show even better. As I fluffed and fretted over pillows and furniture, re-arranging and tweaking and re-arranging again, something caught my eye. There was something on the floor behind the piano that just didn’t belong.

I reached behind the piano and grasped the object in question, pulled it out into the light, and gasped. It was a painting. Now, I am an artist myself, and a collector of fine art: I have seen my share of paintings. But this… this was stunning. I knew immediately that this had been painted by someone who’s soul flowed through the brush strokes: a true artist. The technical skill alone was jaw dropping. I was spellbound - I had to know where this forgotten painting had come from.

photo 2 As it turns out, my clients had impulsively purchased this work of art on  a Mediterranean cruise. While exploring in Athens, they became so taken with   both the artist and the painting that they bought it on the spot. However,  upon returning home they couldn’t seem  to decide on a place for it.

I tracked down the artist, and discovered  she was a Russian-trained painter living  in Greece: Elena Kaplina. Elena has since  painted me five works, and I have become her representative here in Canada. She paints in the still life style, and I have yet to see a modern artist who can evoke the style with more finesse.

 Still Life

photo 4 Still life paintings give new depth to inanimate objects.  Whether they are composed of commonplace man-  made objects (glasses, vases, books, etc.), or the flowers  and fruit of nature’s bounty, the composition and  placement of the objects can evoke strong emotions in  the viewer. Still life actually offers a great amount of  freedom to the artist: they are not limited by the demands of a model, or weather, or landscape – they are free to create something from nothing.

The objects within the painting can be carefully selected for their allegorical symbolism, personal meaning, or simply for their beauty. They are artfully arranged on a surface - perhaps a tabletop – with precision and care. A still life is not simply a random collection of items tossed together on a surface: attention must be given to several factors to produce a rich and complex composition.

Background and Light

photo 2 (1) A clear and directional light source provides the deep  shadows and highlights that give the composition  depth. Although there is no movement to draw the  viewer’s eye, the shadows and highlights provide focus  and emphasis on the objects, and imbue them with a  distinct three dimensionality.

The background of a still life is not the focus. A  contrasting background can provide further emphasis  on the subjects, and use light to direct the viewer’s eye.



Variation is critical. Often, still lifes involve objects in different elevations: some objects may be placed on props to raise them higher, or taller objects may be placed beside shorter objects.

If not achieved through elevation, variation may be achieved through shape, texture, and colour: the crisp, shiny skin of a grape may be placed beside the rough and veiny leaf of a twig, or a rich and velvety pitcher of wine may be placed next to a smooth and golden pear. Or, as in the painting to the left, a single pomegranate split open provides variation in shape.

Still Life Artists

photo 1 Famous still life artists include Severin Roesen (1816 – 1872), Francisco  de Zurbaran (1598 – 1664), Giorgio Morandi (1890 – 1964), Jean-  Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699 – 1779), and Vincent Von Gogh (1853 –  1890). But there are many modern painters who work in the still life  style, including Elena Kaplina.

Elena’s work epitomizes the beauty and technical artistry of the still life genre, and I am honored to represent her in Canada. Please contact us to purchase her work.

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