Saturday in the museum with Édouard

Image: Édouard Manet, “Fish (Still Life)” (1864).

In our series of Saturday art postings on still life paintings we have arrived in the latter half of the 19th century and the Impressionists. For the second week in a row, we find ourselves pondering a fish.

Manet was a keen practitioner of the form, and they represent about a fifth of his production. According to a Musée d’Orsay write up, he considered them the “touchstone of the painter.”

“Tired of history painting and of the ‘pretentious productions’ that weighed down contemporary artistic production, he confessed: ‘A painter can say all he wants to with fruits or flowers, or even clouds. You know, I would like to be the Saint Francis of still life.'”

This painting, from 1864, is in the holdings of the Art Institute of Chicago. Here is their description:

“This painting, like many of Manet’s still-life compositions, recalls seventeenth-century Dutch models. The directness of execution, bold brushwork, and immediacy of vision displayed in the canvas, however, suggest why the public found Manet’s work so unorthodox and confrontational. While Fish is indeed an image of “dead nature” (nature morte is the French term for still life), there is nothing still about the work: the produce seems fresh and the handling of paint vigorous. Further enlivening the composition is the placement of the carp, which offsets the strong diagonal of the other elements. Manet never submitted his still lifes to the official French Salon but rather sold them through the burgeoning network of art galleries in Paris and gave them to friends.”

From Manet’s friends we pass this along to our friends.

With the warm weather extending along the East Coast, it would be a fine night for fish and a chilled white. Lucky for you, our site has a couple hundred great restaurants listed in our D.C. dining guide. You can search in LIST or MAP format and sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current status (dine-in, take-out, delivery, etc.).

Tip big. Wear a mask.