Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art is the first major exhibition to explore the multifaceted meanings of such outdoor subjects in both painting and sculpture from the early nineteenth century to World War II. These aesthetically rich and culturally important works play an influential role in the history of American art.
American artists’ fascination with depicting hunting and fishing, often informed by their own experiences as practitioners, was more than merely a way of commemorating outdoor traditions. Approximately 60 paintings and sculptures—some of the finest examples of American art—illuminate changing ideas about place, national identity, community, wildlife, and the environment, offering compelling insights into socioeconomic issues and cultural concerns. Capturing a communion with nature that was becoming increasingly scarce, many artists alluded to the country’s burgeoning industrialization and urbanization.
This exhibition encompasses a wide variety of portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes, including iconic works by Thomas Cole, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, as well as key pictures by specialists in the category such as Charles Deas, Alfred Jacob Miller, William T. Ranney, and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait. In addition, it sheds new light on modernist interpretations of these subjects by George Bellows and Marsden Hartley, among others.
The six themes in the exhibition are: Leisurely Pursuits, Livelihoods, Communing with Nature, Perils, Myth & Metaphor, and Trophies. For more on each of these themes, click on the link above.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art traces the theme of hunting and fishing in American art from the early nineteenth century through World War II. Describing a remarkable group of American paintings and sculpture, the contributors reveal the pervasiveness of the subjects and the fascinating contexts from which they emerged. In one important example after another, the authors demonstrate that representations of hunting and fishing did more than illustrate subsistence activities or diverting pastimes. The portrayal of American hunters and fishers also spoke to American ambitions and priorities.