Nature Morte

Michael Petry


This richly rewarding book reveals how leading artists of the twenty-first century are reinvigorating the still life, a genre previously synonymous with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Old Masters. The audacious still lifes celebrated here challenge that historical supremacy and redefine what it means to be a work of nature morte, or “dead nature.” Whether through painting, drawing, sculpture, video, or other forms, contemporary artists have drawn on the tradition to create works of conceptual vivacity, beauty, and emotional poignancy.

Michel Petry has structured the book according to the classic categories of the still-life tradition—Flora, Food, House and Home, Fauna, and Death. Each chapter explores how the timeless symbolic resonance of the memento mori—a reminder of death, change, and the passing of time—has been rediscovered for a new millennium. Among the artists represented are John Currin, Saara Ekström, Elmgreen & Dragset, Renata Hegyi, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Gary Hume, Jeff Koons, McDermott & McGough, Beatriz Milhazes, Gabriel Orozco, Marc Quinn, Sam Taylor-Wood, and Cy Twombly.


[A] profusely illustrated volume …richly rethinks one of art’s everlasting topics.

— Art & Auction

Current twists on the still life reflect the tradition’s ongoing obsession with death.

— Publishers Weekly

From Andy Warhol’s flower paintings and Damien Hirst’s diamond-studded skulls to Jennifer Steinkamp’s hypnotic digital blossoms and Anya Gallicio’s screens of real flowers left to rot, the still life has returned in all its metaphoric potency.

— The Minneapolis Star Tribune

A gorgeously illustrated exploration of contemporary artists working in the still life tradition.

— The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Combines provocative text with rich imagery…The bulk of this volume is visual, with stunning imagery supported by short readings of a work and context…Recommended.

— Choice

Considers how the leading artists of modern times are re-inventing the still life.

— The Midwest Book Review

An introduction to seeing the still-life with new eyes.

— ARLIS/NA Reviews

Confirms that still life is very much alive and well as an art form.

— Surface

Beautifully produced…Wildly—and sometimes weirdly—fascinating, and a feast for eyes and mind alike.

— Lürzer’s Int’l Archive

Explores the ways that 21st-century artists have turned to the still-life—nature morte—and its nuanced representation and allusions to death.

— Protoview


Michael Petry


Michael Petry is an American artist who has lived in London since 1981. He is Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in London.