Still life

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The noun phrase still life is used in Art. It is a label for a work, usually two-dimensional, like painting or drawing, which shows inanimate objects. These are often based on materials found in kitchens: copper or ceramic dishes, glassware, metal and wooden utensils, and ingredients such as vegetables, dead birds or other game, and eggs. (Flower painting may be seen as a sub-genre of still life.)

AWE makes two points about its use in English, and one about the oddity of names.

  • When the phrase is used as an adjective, it is often written with a hyphen: still-life. It is not justifiably written with a hyphen when it is used as a noun - although some respected authors do so.
    • Still life is paradoxically translated into French by nature morte (and into Italian as natura morta), which literally means 'dead nature'.