In the history of art, many themes and topics have been explored over the years. However, one of the most underappreciated and forgotten topics is that of the fish painting. Believe it or not, fish paintings have played a significant role in several art movements.
Movements such as the Dutch Golden Age period or the Modern art movement are known for many significant things. However, still-life paintings of fish have also appeared throughout them, time and time again. The reasons for this are numerous. However, each reason shares a common thread.
Whether it is fully realized or not, fish play an integral part in human life and life on the planet. In the human world, the fish symbol has come to represent many different meanings. The following article looks at some of these deeper meanings and paintings from the artists who painted them.
Freshwater Fish by Jacob Gillig
Jacob Gillig was a still-life painter during the Dutch Golden Age era. He is best known for his fish paintings, and when discussing Dutch Golden Age paintings depicting fish, Gillig is among the most-renown. It is also interesting to note that Gillig didn’t begin painting until his twenties and married the daughter of a painter who also painted aquatic paintings.
Gillig worked next to a fish market, so he was surrounded by the fishery’s sights, sounds, and smells daily. This is perhaps why his fish paintings are famous and recognized by art critics, while his other paintings fell short of acclaim.
Gillig’s intimate relationship with fish on a daily working basis allowed him to capture the fish’s appearance with impeccable realism. Somehow, he was able to bring life and deep meaning about life to a subject some may consider mundane. If you allowed yourself, you could stare into one of Gillig’s fish paintings for hours and get lost in its meaning.
Still Life of Cat and Fish by Clara Peeters
Clara Peeters was another Dutch Golden age painter and is considered one of the best female painters of that time. She worked in both Antwerp, where she was from, as well as in Spain and the Dutch Republic and enjoyed a relatively successful career compared to other now-famous artists.
Peeters is famous for the degree of realism within her still-life paintings, and you would struggle to find a better artist when it came to photorealistic adaptations of the everyday world. Her 1607 still life featuring the wine glasses and candle, for example, is so detailed that you would be fooled into believing it is an actual photo at first glance.
As well as being a fantastic still-life painter, Peeters was also a fantastic fish artist. She painted many unique paintings involving them, sometimes alongside other animals, such as cats and other sea creatures. Peeters fish paintings have a beautifully relaxing quality, even when they portray something as grim as death and how life eats life.
Magic Fish by Paul Klee
Paul Klee was a Swiss-German artist during the modern art movement of the early twentieth century. As a modern artist, Klee worked with several different painting styles, including Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Abstract art, to eventually form his patented and famous style.
Klee drew and painted over 9,000 works of art in his career, a staggering number by any measure. His artwork explores various topics, each one portrayed in Klee’s beautifully bizarre and hauntingly captivating style.
One such topic of interest to Klee was the traditional still-life practice of painting fish. As a result, he painted several fantastic fish paintings, each one wholly unique from the next and vibrantly colorful. Magic Fish is one of his more well-known fish paintings and is said to represent the heavenly stars and the passing of time.
Still Life with Golden Bream by Francisco de Goya
Francisco De Goya was a Spanish painter during the Romanticist period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is regarded as the most crucial artist in Spain’s history, not just because of the other artists he inspired but also for the historical events he lived through and chronicled with his paintings.
Goya is more famous today for the darker-themed paintings he painted during the latter part of his career. These macabre musings became darker as Goya aged, resulting in some truly dark and disturbing imagery.
Goya’s fantastically grim fish painting titled Still Life with Golden Bream is one such macabre masterpiece. Only Goya could make a painting of fish look so harrowing and melancholy. But, like many of Goya’s paintings, it is a study of death and decay.
Still Life of Game in a Forest by Albert Mignon
Albert Mignon is another Dutch still-life painter active during the Dutch Golden Age. Mignon was also known for his fantastic fish paintings and is considered by many to be the finest still-life fish painter of the entire Dutch Golden Age.
For whatever reason, the painting of fish seemed a prominent topic for artists during this period, despite the Golden Age being known for much grander masterpieces such as the works of Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Mignon also specialized in painting flowers, forestry, and other game animals. All these are on full display here in this beautiful still-life painting. Furthermore, Mignon hints at the religious and spiritual meanings represented by fish in the Christian religion.
So, there you have five fantastic fish paintings from five amazing fish artists. These fish paintings are just some of the best-known paintings in this unique niche category. Be sure to check them out, and many more like it, as well as the larger both of fantastic work from the artists mentioned here.