Dine & Wine

Fish Paintings for Christmas Eve Dinners

Magda Michalska 22 December 2021 min Read

In many cultures, Christmas Eve dinner does not include any meat or alcohol because one should keep a vigil fasting and expecting the feastings of Christmas Day. So in anticipation of a lot of food that many of you will experience tomorrow (me included!), let’s cherish views of some simple fish paintings:

Georges Braque, Bottle and Fish, 1941, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France, fish paintings
Georges Braque, Bottle and Fish, 1941, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France.

In 1914, Braque enlisted with the French Army, but in 1915, he was severely injured in his head and suffered temporary blindness. Treatment required trepanation and, after the operation, Braque needed a long period of convalescence. After 1916, when he returned to painting, he began developing a new style characterized by brilliant color, textured surfaces, and the reappearance of the human figure. When he painted still lifes, he mostly studied textures and structures of various objects.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Big fishes eat small fishes, 1556, Albertina, Vienna, Austria, fish paintings
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Big Fishes Eat Small Fishes, 1556, Albertina, Vienna, Austria.

This drawing portrays a famous ancient Latin proverb that relates to how the powerful consistently prey on the weak in this cruel world. In the prints that followed this work, a Flemish inscription is added below the man gesturing to his son: “Look son, I have long known that the big fish eat the small.”

Raphael, The Madonna of the Fish (The Madonna with the Archangel Gabriel and St. Jerome), c.1513, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain, fish paintings
Raphael, The Madonna of the Fish, c. 1513, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

The Archangel Raphael brings little Tobias to Mother Mary and Baby Jesus. The boy holds a fish with which he later will cure his father’s blindness and which will give this painting, commissioned by Geronimo del Doce for the Chapel of Saint Rosalie at the Monastery of San Domenico in Naples, a customary name. On the right, we see Saint Jerome who is dressed as a Cardinal. He reads the Bible, the Vulgate, which he translated into Latin.

Gustav Klimt, Fishblood, 1898, destroyed, fish paintings
Gustav Klimt, Fishblood, 1898, private collection. WikiArt.

This print was executed during the first years of the Secession, yet it already documents Klimt‘s fascination with aqueous creatures and the world of women whose hair creates sinuous lines which become one with the water currents.

Filippo De Pisis (Filippo Tibertelli), The Sacred Fish, 1924, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, fish paintings
Filippo De Pisis (Filippo Tibertelli), The Sacred Fish, 1925, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

Objects like a glass with the four-leaf clover, a Chinese vase, or a folded sheet of paper were characteristic of De Pisis’ paintings. In this work, however, apart from his favorite objects, we see fish, which references Giorgio de Chirico’s painting The Sacred Fish.

Marc Chagall, Untitled (Flying Fish),1966, Private Collection, fish paintings
Marc Chagall, Untitled (Flying Fish), 1966, private collection.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve, whether you eat fish or not!

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