This paper considers the ways in which contemporary painting of still life accepts the address of its tradition. Tradition is considered here as cultural memory reiterated and transformed over time. The means by which contemporary artists work with, and against, tradition are explored through ideas of reverie, play and material process. Melancholy is a characteristic of the genre of still life, one that crosses time, and is thus given particular attention in relation to traditional and contemporary still life. Whilst Part I is an exploration of the themes and issues described above, Part II (case studies) is an attempt to exemplify them through the work of three contemporary British painters: Alan Salisbury, Emma Bennett and G.L. Brierley of whom it can be said that they paint playfully melancholic paintings of still life.