Saturday, April 05, 2008

Still Life With Geraldine

Gendy asks:

When you're talking about a painting, does still life refer to just paintings of fruit and vegetables and other non-animal things, or does it include people and animals? Also, is it still life or still-life?

Dear Gendy:

First off, thanks again for submitting a question that could be simply solved by consulting a dictionary. You make my job too easy.

Secondly, still life is never hyphenated unless it's used adjectivally. Yes, I said adjectivally.

To quote Webster's, a still life is "a representation chiefly of inanimate objects." I suppose the rub is the word chiefly, since I guess you could take a picture of your finger poking a bowl of fruit and call it a still life, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The final answer: anything that is photographed, painted, or otherwise documented that doesn't move of its own volition may be correctly termed a still life. Not including my penis. (Why did I say that?)