The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait Opens at Adirondack Museum
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, considered one of the most important chroniclers of outdoor life in the Adirondacks in the mid-19th century, will be the subject of a new exhibition at the Adirondack Museum, which opens for the season on May 27.
The Adirondack Museum’s collection of 38 works of art—prints and paintings—by the artist will form the core of the exhibit. Another dozen loans will help complete this one-of-a-kind exhibition on the artist’s signature subject, hunting and fishing in the Adirondack wilderness.
Craig Gilborn, the former director of the Adirondack Museum who curated the first major exhibition of Taits work at the Adirondack Museum in 1974, has noted, “Tait’s importance as a popularizer of the Adirondacks lay not so much in his paintings, many of which were purchased by prosperous sportsmen, as it was in the copies that were made from his canvasses by Nathaniel Currier and after 1856 by Currier and James Ives. By 1863, when Tait ended his relationship of eight years with the firm of Currier and Ives, some forty or so different editions after Tait’s paintings had found their way into thousands of American homes.”
According to the Museum, the exhibit not only showcases some of Tait’s finest paintings but offers visitors a chance to take a closer look at Tait’s world through an examination of the clothing, customs, weapons, and modes of transportation he depicted so well.
The images Tait created depict with great accuracy the details of life in the woods and on the waters of the Adirondacks. The clothing and equipment of Tait’s hunters reveal much about mid-19th century technology, customs and foodways, and in that sense, his paintings also serve as historical documents.
The exhibition includes “A Good Time Coming,” which Tait painted of his own shanty on Constable Point (now Antlers Point) on Raquette Lake.
“The gentleman holding the bottle at the center of the painting was John C. Force, a Brooklyn restaurateur and collector of Tait’s paintings. Two of the other figures are guides, one bringing freshly caught fish to the campsite and the other cooking over the fire. Among the gear brought for comfortable camping, hunting and fishing was a wooden packing case of wine bottles. The label reveals that they are from Tait’s good friend John Osborn, a Brooklyn liquor importer. These acknowledgments of patron and friend provide interesting insights into the relationship of 19th-century artists and their patrons. The exhibit will examine the “hidden” stories in each of Tait’s paintings,” said the Museum.
Also included is Tait’s “American Speckled Brook Trout,” which was purchased by Currier and Ives in 1863 and reproduced one year later as a lithograph.
”Autumn Morning on Raquette Lake (South Pond),” one of Tait’s largest and finest works, is a highlight of the exhibition.
The museum is open 10 am to 5pm, seven days a week, including holidays, from May 27 through October 17. For more information, call (518) 352-7311.