Today, ironically, I think still life itself has become overlooked or maybe just associated too much with academic art. It brings to mind impersonal and sometimes tedious beginning drawing assignments of stacks of boxes and other unrelated odds and ends. There's something amazing, though, about the concentrated seeing involved in drawing one of these still lifes or in viewing a still life. One of my favorite paintings is Juan Sánchez Cotán's Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber from about 1600 pictured below:
The art historian Norman Bryson brings up some intriguing points about this sense of discovery and concentrated seeing when viewing Cotán's still lifes: "Sight is taken back to a vernal stage before it learned how to scotomise the visual field, how to screen out the unimportant and not see, but scan. In place of the abbreviated forms for which the world scans, Cotán supplies forms that are articulated at immense length...Just at the point where the eye thinks it knows the form and can afford to skip, the image proves that in fact the eye had not understood at all what it was about to discard" (Page 65 of Bryson's Looking at the Overlooked).
As much as I look at this painting, my eye continues to return to the round quince depicted in the upper left of the canvas and follow the curve down and up again, down and up, as if there is an infinite number of times in seeing it anew, yet it is always the same painting.