Still Life with Fish and Snails - Van Beyeren, Abraham

Still Life with Fish and Snails

c. 1655

Recognized by historians as the greatest seventeenth-century Dutch master of fish still lifes, Abraham Van Beyeren aided in supplying the apparent high demand for such paintings.  The fishing industry was an integral part of Dutch life, so much so that representations of fish were often given religious significance.  The Dutch also considered fish to be food for the poor; therefore, the simplicity of still lifes with fish could be considered as counterparts to the sumptuous, rich display of banquets in still lifes, where the emphasis was placed on excess.

The formal construction of Still Life with Fish and Snail is typical of Van Beyeren’s work in that the orientation is horizontal and that the coloration is restricted to brown and silver tonalities.  In contrast to the typical precision of a Dutch still life, Van Beyeren’s work is characterized by the less polished, more painterly style known as the “broad brush” technique, noteworthy for its spontaneous, atmospheric effects.