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Still Life: Oysters, Fish
Adolphe Monticelli
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A drinking glass, a vase, a plate of oysters, some small fish – probably sardines – and a half-peeled lemon lie on a table against a flat dark background. The highly patterned tablecloth is also present in the artist’s Still Life: Fruit and A Vase of Wild Flowers (both in the National Gallery), making it possible that they were painted as pendants.

Monticelli painted fewer still lifes than any other subject, probably because he preferred to paint outdoors than to work in the studio. Nevertheless, his painted landscapes are generally far less realistic than his still lifes. Here, Monticelli looks back to Dutch seventeenth-century still lifes, which demonstrate the artist’s virtuosity through the careful description of objects and textures. This is evident in the naturalism with which he paints the light reflected in the glass and the texture of the juicy pulp of the lemon.

Key facts
Artist Adolphe Monticelli
Artist dates 1824 - 1886
Full title Still Life: Oysters, Fish
Date made about 1878-82
Medium and support Oil on wood, probably mahogany
Dimensions 46.4 x 61.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented as part of the 'Harry Wearne Collection of Twelve Paintings by Monticelli' to the Tate Gallery, 1939; transferred, 1956
Inventory number NG5013
Location in Gallery Room 43
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