Friday Art: Still Life With Cat & Fish by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1728)

Chardin was a wonderful French late-Baroque painter of still lifes and domestic scenes. He painted realistic tranquil settings and enjoyed success during his life, including selling some works to King Louis XV. As he got older though, his sight faded,he had to switch to pastels to see what he was doing and his art style fell out of fad with the snooty French academy. His work fell into obscurity before being rediscovered in the middle of the 19th century when French (and other) artists of that era returned to the same sorts of realistic styles, themes, and subject matter and got away from either the puffy flying seraphim of the Roccoco era or the stiff-armed noble society-savers and blemish-less figures of David and Ingres et al.

By the mid 19th century, more scenes of the real life of average people appeared, whether it was Millet or Daumier or others, and the still lifes and landscapes gave us back some rustic qualities. And artists returned to painting the things that REALLY MATTER: CATS.


Well, maybe not… cats have always been wonderful subjects for artists since they’re so wonderfully exotic, curvy and in the case of this work by Chardin, capable of wonderfully emotive facial expressions. That cat doesn’t want to just get a few bites out of that fish, that cat is telling you he OWNS that fish and will DOMINATE IT by eating it right out from under you.

And that goes double for those two hanging suckers as well, bubba.

Now go scoop my litterbox. I don’t care if you are Louis XV, never forget who really is the king around here, you powdered wigged fop sack of merde.

Chardin would retun to this theme again in “Still Life With Cat And Rayfish” also 1728. Different calico cat, but the same idea. You thought it was your dinner, but it’s nice to share. And just look at those eyes…. more of that commanding ownership, no?

And for the dog lovers…. this 1730 work, a wonderful hunting dog who not only helped you bag that game for the big banquet but will faithfully guard it for you, waiting ever so patiently for a nugget from your dinner table. Those calicos? They’ll eat right off your plate and stick their butt in your face. Cats and dogs are different.

Chardin gets the look and feel of his animals so well that sometimes it’s a little TOO well painted… that poor hare looks like he’s still alive. Maybe that’s what the dog wants to tell his master. He’s got that “Hey, I need to report this” look in his eyes.

Or maybe he just wants to tell him about this.


One thought on “Friday Art: Still Life With Cat & Fish by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1728)

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  1. How did he get the cat to pose so quietly there when dinner was mere inches away?

    Sent from my iPhone


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