Dordrecht 1628 - 1679/1681 The Hague
Canvas, 84 x 115 cm
Painted circa 1665-1670
Signed : I. van Duijnen (on table top)
Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague
Painting fish in a lifelike manner was an exceptional challenge for a painter. Depicting the shiny skin in a convincing manner was not simple. Furthermore fish have a limited range of colours, so that an artist must draw on all his skill in composition, and the treatment of light and materials if he is to make his painting interesting. Abraham van Beyeren is perhaps the most famous fish painter of the seventeenth century. He lived in The Hague for some years and had a distinct influence on the work of Isaac van Duynen during this period. In the still life in question Van Duynen opted for a wide range of fish and shellfish. On a stone table we see both salt and fresh water fish, oysters, mussels and a North Sea lobster. Most striking is a sizable turbot with head and tail tied together with a thread to keep it fresh. With his wide range of forms, Van Duynen has also used a variety of colours. The all too frequent brown-grey pattern of fish still lifes is deliberately broken here with the addition of a blue cloth and a bright red salmon. Pink and blue-grey tints link these primary colours, for instance in the mussel on the far right and the sturgeon on the left next to the salmon. Van Duynen’s treatment of materials is convincing: the shiny creatures with their tender structure are far removed from the cardboard-like creatures that we see in the work of other painters of still lifes with fish.
This Still Life with Fish on a Table is remarkable for its powerful accents of colour, such as the red of the salmon pieces and the blue rug on the table. It is as if Van Duynen purposely added primary colours to his palette to breathe more life into the picture. Noticeable too is the turbot on the cloth, the head and tail of which have been tied to keep the fish fresh. The work can be seen at the fish exhibition in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht.