Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • What is a still life painting? How does still life differ from other types of painting?
  • What might an artist need to consider when choosing and arranging objects for a still life?
  • An eel-fisher’s tools of the trade are the subject of this late still life by John Frederick Peto; Peto was a close associate of William Michael Harnett, the other great trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) still-life painter of the late 19th century. Peto often chose to represent doors with objects hanging on or tacked to them, such as in this work. He frequently included highly personal symbolic details in the seemingly random assemblages. What objects would you include if you were to make a still life painting that was personally significant to you?
  • Describe some of the textures you see in the painting.
  • How has Peto's style made the object in the picture appear life-like?
  • If this picture were three-dimensional, which objects would be closest to you?
  • Compare this painting with William Michael Harnett's Munich Still LIfe. (1953.56)