The still life is a composition of "motionless" objects. These can be flowers, game, fish or fruit, books or other utensils. In 17th century Dutch painting, the expression of material, the way in which the surface of the depicted was depicted, was very important. The skill with which hard and shiny glass, silk, precious porcelain, a lemon or flowers were painted determined the reputation of the painter or painter (es) until well into the 19th century. The "flower arrangement" was especially popular. Performers such as Willem van Aelst, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Roelant Savery, Rachel Ruysch and Jan van Huysum were famous and sold their work to royal collections. Their bouquets were lush, sometimes enlivened with fruit, insects or a bird's nest with eggs. The flowers depicted were largely exotic specimens that were painted from nature when the artist could find them and were otherwise taken from botanical handbooks.
In the 19th century, the Dutch flower still life initially retains its traditional form, although its moralizing content disappears. The flowers, finely worked out and in the most beautiful phase of their bloom, are carefully arranged in a vase or terracotta pot, placed on a stone plinth. Just like his predecessors, the painter searches among growers for rare and special varieties. The most famous flower nurseries were traditionally located in Haarlem and the surrounding area and it is very likely that Georgius van Os and his contemporaries gathered dust there for their still lifes of flowers combined with fruit or game. It is known, for example, that Van Os regularly stayed in Haarlem at a later age to make studies of the latest exotic flowers and plants in 'the nursery garden of Flora'.
It was not until the second half of the 19th century that attention was paid to the properties of the flowers themselves and the atmosphere they radiate. The static arrangement and detailed elaboration give way to a more natural representation: the flowers are loosely arranged or laid out on the forest floor. Faded specimens and faded or discolored leaves are also making their appearance. The most innovative still lifes came from Gerardine van de Sande Bakhuyzen, who used flowers and plants from the forest or the field instead of the peonies, roses, poppies and lilies customary until then. The younger Margaretha Roosenboom almost always chooses one flower type. Her grandfather, Andreas Schelfhout, taught her the watercolor technique, the transparency of which lends itself well to the delicate structure and color of her roses.
While Margaretha Roosenboom and Gerardina Jacoba van de Sande Bakhuyzen were still fairly traditional in their compositions, the artists around 1900, such as Floris Verster, Leo Gestel, Mondriaan and Jan Sluijters, paint still lifes in which personal expression prevails over the accurate portrayal of reality.