A still life painting or photograph is the study of inanimate objects (nature morte). These objects are typically those of the everyday and include plants, fruit, vegetables, dishes, soup cans and more. But, perhaps even more importantly, a key feature of still life art work is the degree of control that the artist can exercise over the work. The elements that make up a still life can be arranged or composed by the artist at will; the lighting can be redirected. Still life painting can be seen to be a relatively pure, even abstract, form of art.
While still life painting can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, it was only with the Dutch painters of the 17th century that it came into its own as a painting genre.
Still life artists of the 19th century such as Cezanne, Fantin-Latour and, in the United States, Raphaelle Peale took still life painting in new directions. In the 20th century, further innovation led to art movements such as Cubism and Pop Art and informed others such as Photorealism. Today, still life remains a popular genre. Some artists take a traditional approach, while others see it as a vehicle to explore new artistic possibilities or to convey political or social meaning.