The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog is an oil on canvas painting done by Eric Fischl. It was painted in 1982, and the size is 7 feet by 7 feet. In the painting, five people are in the boat including a Dalmatian dog. Everyone appears to be naked except for the woman on the left. She is wearing an orange life vest and a sky blue bikini. Her golden blonde hair is covering her face, and she is pulling the string of the fishing rod between her right toes.
The woman in the middle is lying naked on a teal mattress while facing away from the viewer. She has dark shoulder length hair, wide hips, and bikini tan lines on her buttocks. Her right leg is in between the dog’s front legs. Near them is a naked man who is resting his left elbow on the side of the boat. He is drinking from a can and he seems to be looking directly at his viewer. The other naked man on the edge of the canvas is sitting sideways and his upper body is twisted to the right. Close to his bent legs is another naked man in cow position, and crawling to his direction. Fischl painted the background in different shades of blue, green, ochre, and purple. “Fishl’s subjects move beyond a fascination with either flesh or paint to become implicated in suggestions of alcoholism, voyeurism, onanism, homosexuality, and incest.”
This piece caught my attention instantly as it looks like a photo that we commonly see on Instagram or magazines. If I may say so, this could qualify as one of the many frequent beach holiday photos of Kim Kardashian who is proudly showing off her buttocks. I don’t find it shocking though and perhaps it’s because of the absence of the breasts, and that we are exposed with this level of scenery everyday. While I am pleased by how Fischl positioned each of the individual, I believe there are quite a few things that make this painting flawed. It appears that the man on the left has his face cut off for no reason and it is really bothersome.
The way Fischl painted their skins in warm and bright tones suggests that they are in a sun-filled setting, but the dark painted sky is saying otherwise. Moreover, it looks like the wind is blowing the woman’s blonde hair to the right, however, it doesn’t agree with the direction of the huge ocean waves. Fischl painted an unnecessary blot of shadow on the naked woman’s lower back as well as the man’s forehead near her. His bent left knee is awkwardly positioned and even the way he holds the can is not right. I can only speculate that he is the owner of the boat and the dog, but he doesn’t look old enough. Additionally, the crawling man’s head and body at the back is just impossibly too small, and his genital is nowhere to be found.
The way Fischl painted the dog’s mouth on the man’s nipple, cutting off the man’s face on the left, and even the way he put the fishing rod between the woman’s toes are just among the few things that make me feel uncomfortable and frustrated. I feel that he even turned me into a voyeur just by simply painting that one naked man who is looking directly at me. It is obvious that Fischl wasn’t going for perfection but there is no doubt that he effectively showed the audience how the modern society has become.