|American Paintings — Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait - Buck at Bay|
|Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait - Buck at Bay
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 20 1/8 x 30 1/8 inches
Signed l.r.: A. F. Tait, N.A./ N.Y. 83
Provenance: Trinity College, Hartford Connecticut
Born in Liverpool, England, A. F. Tait spent the first three decades of his life in England, beginning his working career as an art dealer at Agnews, in Manchester. He was a self-taught artist who learnt how to paint by copying the works on view at the Royal Institute. Steeped in admiration for the subjects of Edwin Landseer and the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, he established himself as a realistic painter of landscapes, animals and sporting scenes.
This was an astute decision as the popularity of such subject matter was at its height during nineteenth-century Britain. The reputation of the newly crowned Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert established them as the arbiters of fashion and the nation, like their monarch, quickly developed a passion for the countryside and nature. Outdoor pursuits, such as shooting and hunting, were thought to broaden the spirit and the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII, was an enthusiastic proponent.
Tait continued to paint landscapes and sporting scenes after emigrating to the United States in 1850. He had assisted George Catlin with his traveling Indian gallery in England and Paris and was attracted to the images of the American West captured by Catlin. In America, Tait acquired a reputation as a frontier artist although he never traveled further West than Chicago and formulated his scenes wildlife while hunting in the Adirondack Mountains. These wilderness scenes, often composed around an anecdote, appealed to a wide popular audience, and from 1852 Currier & Ives as well as Louis Prang published a number of lithographs and chromolithographs of his work. Tait also composed still-lifes of game birds and, in his later career, barnyard scenes of sheep and chickens.
Although Stag at Bay is one of Tait's later works it clearly shows the lasting impression made upon the artist by Edwin Landseer who produced countless images of the animal. The majesty of the deer is emphasized by the sfumato of clouds that surrounds him and is directly borrowed from Landseer. However, unlike Landseer who always depicted the stag as imperious, Tait's makes eye contact with the viewer instilling a notion of empathy and mutual respect.