Paolozzi first made drawings and collages based on the subject of fish when he lived in Edinburgh and visited the local community of Newhaven. In Paris between 1947 and 1949 he made many collages and bas-reliefs of similar subjects. He was entranced, he told Nigel Henderson in a letter of 1949, by the fish he saw piled up on fishmongers' slabs; and by the marine life he saw on a visit to St Jean-de-Luz. In May 1949 he exhibited bas-reliefs of sea imagery in Eduardo Paolozzi - Drawings and Bas-reliefs at the Mayor Gallery. And in the summer of 1952, after visiting the Venice Biennale, he made a special visit to Naples to see the famous aquarium.
Fish was made either in Paris or shortly after Paolozzi returned in later 1949. Between then and 1953 there is a record of two related plaster versions of Fish which show minor variations. A photograph of the interior of the architect Jane Drew's house shows one version, and another taken in Paolozzi's studio in Bunsen Street, Bethnal Green, shows another (Nigel Henderson, Tate Archive). A plaster Fish was shown in the exhibition 'Young Sculptors' at the ICA in January 1952 (no. 38). According to the present owner, his father first owned Fish in plaster before asking Paolozzi to cast this unique version for him in bronze.