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.