Fruit and Flowers: Still Life from the Greeks to Picasso

When and Where

16 Jan 2020 - 26 Mar 2020 (20 hours, 10 weeks)
Days and times
Thursday 10:30 - 12:30
Morley College London


Full fee
Concession fee
Senior fee

Quick Facts

This course has started but late enrolments are accepted.
Clare Ford-Wille
Course code

What you will learn

1. What you will learn

The course will begin with a study of Classical wall paintings of still life and descriptions of them in the writings of Classical authors such as Pliny. With the beginnings of Christianity still life as a subject disappears in favour of religious imagery but reappears gradually during the 14th century when manuscript illuminators were observing more closely plant, tree, fruit and flower forms, which can be seen in the borders of manuscripts, in particular books of hours. Still life objects were included in the frescoes of Italian artists such as Giotto and the Lorenzetti also.

However the development of the oil painting technique in Netherlandish painting from the early 15th century in the work of Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck and their successors meant that still life could be painted more realistically and began to appear more frequently. Even so still life was mainly included as a subsidiary detail until the middle of the 16th century, when the subject began to appear in its own right or as a dominant theme with genre figures, as in the market scenes of Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Bueckelaer in the Southern Netherlands.

Shortly thereafter and certainly by the first decade of the 17th century early examples of arrangements of flowers in a vase against a dark background began to appear in the work of Roelant Savery, Jacob de Gheyn and their contemporary, Jan Brueghel the Elder. One of the catalysts for the steady and fairly rapid development of both flower and so-called ‘breakfast pieces’ in the Northern Netherlands during the 17th century was the change from Catholicism to Protestantism and the need to explore other subjects for painting. Another factor was the enthusiasm for the new plants and insects brought back from the voyages of discovery.

Spanish painters in the 17th century such as Velazquez and Zurburan produced still life paintings of great beauty which were influential on future painters in the 19th and 20th cent

By the end of the course you will be able to

  • Become familiar with the main developments in western European still life art from the Classical period to the 20th century.
  • Recognise the main artists responsible for still life developments.
  • Understand the artists whose work is particularly influential.
  • Have an understanding of the various techniques used by still life artists such as fresco, tempera, oil or pastel.

Class format and activities

You will be looking at images of paintings, and the graphic arts and listening to the interpretations of these by the tutor. There will be continuous opportunities for discussion and analysis by all class members at all times.

In order to ensure that you make the best possible progress on your course, you will have regular and detailed feedback from your tutor, in a constructive and supportive environment.

In order to ensure that you make the best possible progress on your course, you will have regular feedback from your tutor, in a constructive and supportive environment.

Entry requirements

The course is suitable for both beginners and more experienced students.

What you need to know before you enrol

This course takes place in Art History lecture room B13, which can be accessed by stairs or a lift.

What you will need for your class

A notebook will be useful, although the tutor will be providing detailed handouts for each session, with a list of images and the artists and sculptors involved.

What you can do next

It is hoped that the course will enable you to develop your own interpretation of art with more confidence and to continue, if possible, into the next year or to enrol on other art history courses at Morley College.