October 21, 2011

Friday Fishing

Of all the paintings that have been stolen from museums or private collections, the one I'm most upset about is Jean-Baptiste Oudry's masterful oil painting "La Vie Calme avec le Canard Blanc", otherwise known as "The White Duck".

You can find a very good reproduction of it in the book Color and Culture by John Gage. You can also learn more about this stolen masterpiece here.

Still life as a genre is one of the most interesting subjects for study and exploration. Sometimes you need to gather some background information dealing with the Bible and traditional symbolism just to understand what's going on in a painting.

Today, I would like to share some takes on the subject of some very dead fish from a Portuguese market. In my opinion, because these photos were taken indoors under some strange lighting, the fish have acquired distinctly spooky personalities. What do you think?

It is our art that has an opportunity to leave a footprint in the sand. They don't wrap fish in our work.
Hugh Newell Jacobsen


  1. I didn't know that about the La Vie Calme avec le Canard Blanc oil painting. Wow. I love learning new things from your blog. Really. :)

    Hope you are well.

  2. Same here. I had no idea about La Vie Calme. As for your friends the fish, perfect shots since Halloween is around the corner. They are spooky as can be! Bon weekend, Olga! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. How spooky! Is it true that fish aren’t sentient? Don’t they suffer fear or pain? Especially the fish in the first and the third photo look wanting to say something. This is the first time for me to see the series of photos of the dead fish... very unique.


  4. All those little open mouths, as though gasping for air (which they wouldn't anyway)...

    Didn't you feel slightly self-conscious taking pictures of fish at the fish counter? Did you get some funny looks?

  5. Fantastic pictures, very creepy and spooky though! eek! I didn't realise that picture had been stolen. You do wonder who would buy something famous which is known to be stolen.

  6. Fish scare me a little; it´s something about those staring eyes that freaks me out! :-D Love the pics though, close ups are always interesting! :-)

  7. Amazing photos Olga. The one of the eels(?) I had to keep looking at because I couldn't believe it was a photo. It looks like an ink drawing, the colours and lines of it are lovely. You make me want to draw it.

    And thank you for the Art History lesson :) I shall look into the stolen painting in greater depth. I have read a lot about other, sadly, stolen paintings, but was not aware of this one. I agree, it is most upsetting.

    Enjoy your weekend X

  8. It is that unusual lighting that gives your photos such character. You really took some wonderful shots. Will you be using them for your painting?

  9. I rather liked them fried :-)

  10. Great pictures that again remind me why I am not a fish eater.

  11. Do you hear me saying eeek!so many fish again??? My husband likes fishing. I often have to clean many fish he caught and cook them.
    Those fish in your photos are never spooky for me. Thank you for sharing'The White Duck'.
    Very impressive painting!

  12. De toute façon, Olga, tout poisson mort a une allure de fantôme. Mais leurs couleurs ressortent bien, comparées à celle de la glace!
    Ces photos sont belles!

  13. Totally spooky! It's making me think twice about eating fish. Awesome close ups. Now you got me curious about that painting...better go find out. =) Nice weekend to you.

  14. Those fish are a bit freaky... maybe it's their wide open staring eyes?

  15. Ghoulish or should I say Ghou"fish"-perfect for this time of year.

  16. Even in death, these fish stare with eyes wide open, scales retaining bright color, mouths either open to speak or shut with acceptance of their demise...though their demise will bring some tasty yum-yum for whoever chooses them.

    I tend to view fish as fried, smoked or baked, but never artistically like this. It feels different. Cool.

    They do seem a bit spooky as if looking at you to say, "Now, see here...".

  17. Woah! Brilliant photos, Olga - a little spooky too with all their big round eyes!

  18. those are definitely interesting pics! and i had no idea about that painting, i wonder for what reasons it was stolen? it looks like a photo!

  19. Brilliant photographs - very graphic and excellent for still life.

  20. They are all living creatures and I can understand the saying of fish out of water. lol
    Death is death You admire things for the life they lived and you have a chance to examine the life, through death.
    Scientists have long known this and artists try to capture it on their canvasses.

  21. Creepy spooky pictures, but brilliant photography!

  22. really good pictures!
    ps. I am a fish fun:)

  23. You've made these fish look so vibrant, even though they're no longer living. Now that's talent.

  24. Ode à des poissons morts, still life...

  25. Fantastic photos.

    The idea of choosing to photograph dead fish lying on a slab in a market is what I find so extraordinary. I've taken photos of dead pheasants hanging outside a butcher's shop, mind you.

    But fish !

  26. Hi Sophia,
    I myself didn't know about this painting until recently. It is really a big loss.

    Hi Veronique,
    Yes, I suppose, for Halloween, the expression on these fishes' faces is very appropriate :)

    Hi Yoko,
    I think that this is one of the theories. I guess scientists have enough to do for now, but one day, they will learn everything about fish :)

    Hi Sarah,
    Not just gaping mouths, but also tongues, as well as eyes and everything else.

    Hi Jenny,
    I also wonder when a famous artifact is stolen. It's pretty clear that it's on someone's orders. Because it's impossible to sell such a thing.

  27. Hi tinajo,
    I thought that it was me who takes such spooky photos :) I guess that fish, as a subject, can also be beautiful and enchanting, if it's swimming in the water. It's a matter of context.

    Hi Dolly,
    I have a large quantity of drawings and paintings with a fish theme. These creatures actually really fascinate me. If you have a moment, read the book I have mentioned, although I must warn you that it is written in quite a boring way.

    Hi Duncan,
    Thank you very much. You can't pull your eyes away from these fishes :)

    Hi Ingrid,
    In the past, I drew fishes very often. It was a very popular subject among my customers. They are really amazing creatures; very picturesque.

    Hi Pet,
    The fish from the first photo is unbelievably tasty when grilled :)

  28. Hi R. Jacob,
    :) Oh, but can't you see they're smiling at you? :)

    Hi Pierre,
    Thank you, enjoy yours too!

    Hi Tomoko,
    I know this painting from my childhood - I was really upset when I heard that it was stolen :(

    Hi Richard,
    Les couleurs de ces poissons sont si envoûtante - rouge et argent, je ne peux détourner mon regard de ces couleurs. Par ailleurs, les sujets sont très savoureux!

    Hi Sandy,
    Sorry - despite the dramatic effect of their appearance, I just love to eat fish!

  29. Hi Nat,
    Yes, they really are freaky - and tasty!

    Hi lilylovekin,
    Perfect for this time of the year indeed!

    Hi Angela,
    Despite the fact that they look so dramatic, when grilled, they are so tasty that it's impossible to refuse them :)

    Hi Antonio,
    Thank you very much for your visit!

    Hi Lizzie,
    I'm glad you liked my little story about these unfortunate little fish who have ended their lives on my frying pan :)

  30. Hi Krystal,
    I have read several books on the subject of stolen artwork in general - all over the world. Many cases are completely shrouded in mystery. Despite the fact that well-known detectives spent a great deal of time investigating.

    Hi aguja,
    If only you know how many such still lives I have painted! Thank you for your compliment.

    Hi A Lady's Life,
    I have a feeling that, in many contemporary paintings, death is celebrated instead of life. This really makes me uneasy.

    Hi Nas Dean,
    They are spooky indeed - also delicious. Thank you for the compliment about my photography.

    Hi Ola,
    I think that there is nothing more delicious than grilled fish and seafood!

  31. Hi Talli,
    I like your point of view - it is very optimistic, as is the case with any real gourmand :)

    Hi versus,
    Thank you for your comment. To me, still life is an endless subject for thought and painting.

    Hi Friko,
    The subject really demanded to be captured. The colours and the diversity of textures and forms is just begging to become a still life.