Late in his career the American impressionist William Merritt Chase took up fish as a favorite still life subject. Staging these on dark backgrounds with light glistening upon their scales, he was able to achieve dramatic effects, as collector Leo Stein wrote in 1917, “at a lesser price of organization than groups of smaller or less expressively shaped objects.”
He often staged his process for students, who gasped as his pictures came to life. According to the Brooklyn Museum, he “painted quickly, ‘wet into wet’ (brushing wet paint into wet paint), beginning with a base preparation of silvery white and blue tones. Identifying the brightest passage at the outset, Chase then worked up the darks and lights simultaneously.” His technique was so rapid that he was able to return the fish to market, still fresh enough to be sold.