Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905)
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905)

Duck Shooting, Some of the Right Sort

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905)
Duck Shooting, Some of the Right Sort
signed and dated 'A.F. Tait/NY. 1853.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
29¾ x 43½ in. (75.6 x 110.5 cm.)
(Probably) James Clark, Brooklyn, New York.
(Probably) Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Carroll S. Tyson, Jr., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
By descent to the present owners.
Artist's record book, no. 37.
Museum of Fine Arts, Sport in American Art, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1944, pp. 19, 38, no. 86, pl. XII, illustrated (as Duck Shooting).
Sports Illustrated, Sport in Art: From American Collections Assembled for an Olympic Year, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1955, n.p., no. 94 (as Duck Shooting).
(Probably) W.H. Cadbury, H.F. Marsh, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait: Artist in the Adirondacks, Newark, New Jersey, 1986, p. 117, no. 51.12, illustrated.
New York, National Academy of Design, 29th Annual Exhibition, 1854. Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Sport in American Art, October 10-December 10, 1944, no. 86.
New York, Time and Life Building, and elsewhere, Sport in Art: From American Collections Assembled for an Olympic Year, October 31-November 4, 1955, no. 94.

Lot Essay

"Here we see the two Clark brothers, who were noted, not only for their resemblance to each other, but as prominent Tammany politicians of the day." (F.J. Peters, Sporting Prints by Currier & Ives, 1930)

When Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait and his wife, Marian, moved to New York in early September 1850, sporting pursuits had become commonplace for American outdoorsmen. The popularization of hunting and fishing was advanced through publications and the extension of railroad lines, which greatly reduced the distance and difficulty of reaching rural and wilderness areas. An avid sportsman himself, Tait capitalized on this growing cultural phenomenon and helped to insure that the representation of sporting life became an important part of the lexicon of American art.

Born in Liverpool, England in 1819, Tait spent some of his early youth on a family farm where he acquired a life-long love for field sports and wildlife. In his early teens he moved to Manchester and began working for Thomas Agnew, selling a variety of fine and decorative arts. It was during this period that he took up drawing and lithography; he began working with oil paint in the 1840s. Tait was an accomplished artist by the time he arrived in New York and his choice of subject matter, sporting and wildlife themes, engaged the public's growing enthusiasm for recreation. These factors helped him "to secure with remarkable speed his reputation as a professional painter." (The Adirondack Museum, A.F. Tait: Artist in the Adirondacks, exhibition catalogue, Blue Mountain Lake, New York, 1974, p. 9)

Duck Shooting, Some of the Right Sort was painted in 1853, a pivotal period for Tait and a year prior to his election as an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design. In the April 1854 issue of The Evening Mirror an anonymous critic commented, "Mr. Tait is a young Englishman, who has taken permanent lodgment among us, and his progress for two of three years past has been very marked. He loves nature and hunts her out, with gun and brush in hand...His eye is quick and correct; his view broad, and his hand, as an artist, accomplished and decided. His pictures are thoroughly American, and in his province he paints better altogether than any of his competitors in this region." Duck Shooting, Some of the Right Sort is a prime example of the artist's work from this period and is of the caliber that accounts for his rapid rise in America's art world and public esteem.

Duck Shooting, Some of the Right Sort was probably influenced by the New Jersey wetlands, which Tait began visiting at the prompting of his friend and fellow artist, William Ranney. Ranney not only accompanied Tait on hunting trips, but also acted as an influential mentor to the artist during the 1850s. "At the same time, Ranney and Tait conveyed in their paintings little of the grandeur of nature in the sublime sense such as it is found in the landscapes of Thomas Cole and other artists touch by romanticism. And both applied the genre formula of stressing the incidental." (W.H. Cadbury and H.F. Marsh, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait: Artist in the Adirondacks, Newark, Delaware, 1986, p. 29) It is this passionate emphasis on detail and bold interest in the figurative, rather than on the surrounding landscape, that distinguished Tait's work and accounts for his continuing popularity.

Tait's passion for sport and wildlife allowed him to imbue his works with telling and accurate details that appealed to the American public. Craig Gilborn, past director of the Adirondack Museum, observed that his artistic skills continue to support his popularity: "A.F. Tait kept his individuality while visually expressing ideas and situations that were very much in harmony with the spirit of his times. That he elicits the same delight today as he did years ago is testimony that his work strikes some sort of sympathetic chord." (A.F. Tait: Artist in the Adirondacks, 1974, p. 8)

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