As a means of tracing the trajectory of twentieth-century art, the still life seems a useful guide. Historically, the still life was considered a lesser form of painting due to the mundane objects it depicted. How, after all, could an image of fruit, no matter how finely delineated, compare to the grandeur of history painting? While a hierarchy of genres may seem silly, if not incomprehensible, to a contemporary sensibility, it should not be forgotten that some of the most radical art of the modern era had, as its ostensible subject, the humble still life. The word “radical” is used here not as a gauge of an artist’s political beliefs, but as a marker of how art can reconfigure itself, as well as the way we look at it and the world. At a time when radicalism in art is measured by the stridency of one’s ideological “subject matter,” it is important to bear in mind that a truly revolutionary art once took for its...

 
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