Observing Everyday Life

Food, friends and families, neighborhoods, work and leisure activities—these are the staples of everyday life. This chapter features artists who have taken notice of the people and objects that make up their world.

Jan Steen and Hendrick Avercamp recorded the sights and sounds of the 17th-century Dutch Republic, while still-life paintings by Osias Beert the Elder, Willem Claesz Heda, and Jan Davidsz de Heem convey the prosperity of their time. Édouard Manet painted people whose very existence was changed by the urban growth of Paris. Mary Cassatt became well known for her paintings of mothers and children in natural poses. Winslow Homer turned his attention to people at work and play, while Wayne Thiebaud pays tribute to the traditions of American life by painting some familiar and delicious treats.

As you consider the diverse artists in this chapter, think about the many ways everyday life inspires art.

Jan Steen and Hendrick Avercamp
1625/1626–1679 (Steen); 1585–1634 (Avercamp)

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Osias Beert the Elder, Willem Claesz Heda, and Jan Davidsz de Heem
c. 1580–1624 (Beert); 1593/1594–1680 (Heda); 1606–1683/1684 (Heem
Flemish (Beert); Dutch (Heda, Heem)

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Édouard Manet

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Mary Cassatt

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Winslow Homer

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Wayne Thiebaud
born 1920

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Paperback editions of An Eye for Art are available for purchase.


Studying Nature

Questioning Traditions

Playing with Space


Download PDFs:

Edgar Degas (8MB)

Alexander Calder (6MB)

Dan Flavin (3MB)

Martin Puryear (6MB)