Anto Carte, whose work lies on the edges of Expressionism, approaching the style of Käthe Kollwitz and naturalism, depicts in this painting a fisherman resisting the temptation of the Sirens who are enveloping him like a mist. Influenced by symbolism and an admirer of the maritime world, Anto Carte transforms a simple fisherman into a mythological figure, a companion of Ulysses. The Odyssey recounts the long journey of the hero Ulysses back to the island of Ithaca to find his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. During his travels, made perilous by the wrath of the god Poseidon, Ulysses encounters the Sirens, goddesses of the seas, who remain at the entrance to the Strait of Messina near Sicily. These exceptionally talented musicians seduce sailors. Attracted by their voices, sailors lose their sense of direction and smash their boats onto the reefs where they are devoured by these enchantresses. Warned by Circe, Ulysses plugs his shipmates' ears with soft wax and allows his feet and hands to be tied to the mast of his ship beforehand. Through the Greek myth and his bold composition, Anto Carte puts the focus on the effort of the fisherman, a monumental figure in the scene, rather than that of the hero, Ulysses, who is absent from it.
Anto Carte often depicts characters engaged in work. Here, he emphasizes the fisherman's strong hands as he struggles to row, but also his helpless gaze as he looks at the Siren before him. As part of a series on the Sirens and fishermen made in the 1920s, the human being remains the focus, as in the rest of Anto Carte's work. A figure with light, dreamy eyes, chiselled skin and the resigned look of a man who is tired of fighting, the fisherman calls to mind a character that often featured in Anto Carte's work, for whom his gardener served as a model.
Like the rower in L'Effort, a work painted by Anto Carte in 1922, the fisherman's muscular hands, arms and shoulders perfectly express his strength and hard work. The lines of the drawing and the colours of the palette reinforce this sensation of tension. The artist has used impasto and Antoine Bourlard's technique of scraping various layers of paint with a knife in order to intensify the nuances of light.
The original perspective and stylized volumes are particularly characteristic of the refinement of Anto Carte's art and are reminiscent of the geometric shapes and aestheticism of Art Deco.
The nudes, which are unusual in his work, display great sensitivity in the handling of light and the transparency of matter. Like one of Tamara Lempicka's muses, the Siren, who is both voluptuous and sculptural, seems to plunge the viewer into a profound philosophical, introspective reflection on human destiny. Anto Carte continually sought to understand the human being through his work, translating a mythological theme, a common topic in the history of art, into a highly personal vision.