Wednesday 23 September 2015



I’ve heard it told that buying and selling art could be compared to fishing. One casts their line waiting to hook the next best painting to sell, and in turn the great painting becomes bait cast out again in the hopes that it will catch the eye of an excited buyer. Furthermore, I've noticed that plenty of collectors and art lovers also seem to love fishing. In pairing art with fishing, let us have a look at some of our country’s cherished artists having a go at fishing.

A simple Google image search reveals that contemporary artists all across the continent and abroad are painting idyllic scenes of anglers peacefully casting their lines as they fly fish at the bend in a river. Like today, artists’ depicted angling as a relaxing and enjoyable pastime, hobby, or even sport, throughout Canadian art history. I have “fished” around to find a few historical Canadian artists’ renditions of anglers for this laid back little blog. I didn’t intend to pick any particular period over another, I just “reeled in” what I could find. (Puns irresistible!)

Paul Peel Three Boys Fishing at a Cove (Museum London)

Robert Gagen Fishing (1879)

Henry Sandham Trout Fishing (1890) (National Gallery of Canada)

Lucius O'Brien Two studies of Anglers(late 19th century) (National Gallery of Canada)

William Raphael Two Boys Fishing (1877) (National Gallery of Canada)

Homer Watson Fishing (1930) (National Gallery of Canada)

Tom Thomson Fisherman (1916-17) oil on canvas (Art Gallery of Alberta)

Jean-Paul Lemieux Fishing by the Docks (1927) ink, gouache (National Gallery of Canada)

W.J. Phillips The Angler (1926) colour woodblock print

Two colour woodblock prints by Margaret Shelton Fishing on Jack Lake and Fishing on the Bow (1945)

(.... and a familiar view from the perspective of the fisherman on board! E.J. Hughes Entrance to West Arm (1960) (Private Collection)

I found many examples of works that depict the happy angler, the most famous of which is Tom Thomson’s The Fisherman. I found quite a few little works on paper, many of which are owned by the National Gallery of Canada. Admittedly, based on the number of contemporary depictions of leisurely fishing subjects, I thought that I might find more works by well know painters that were somewhat equivalent to Thomson’s The Fisherman. However, I quickly realized that despite the fact that angling for sport did not appear as often as I thought, Canadian art history is filled with subjects of the fishing industry and related activities. A recurring theme in Canadian art history is the fishing village, which appears throughout the late 19th and 20th century. Since the nation is surrounded by ocean, and scattered with seemingly infinite lakes and waterways it is no wonder that fishing was depicted often, as it was and still is an important industry for Canada. I have therefore included excellent paintings and prints related to the fishing industry, as it is almost as prevalent a theme as other geographic themes in Canadian art, such as ‘Algoma,’ or ‘Algonquin.’

Lawren Harris Fishing Stage Quidi Vide, Newfoundland (1921) (National Gallery of Canada)

Arthur Lismer Nova Scotia Fishing Village (1930) (National Gallery of Canada)

Pegi Nicol McLeod Women Cleaning Fish (1927) (National Gallery of Canada)

Paul Goranson Purse Seiner (1940) woodcut

Jack Shadbolt Fishing Boats, Fraser River, 1945 watercolour, 19 x 15 in. (Available at Masters Gallery, Vancouver)

Jock MacDonald Indian Salmon Rack, Fraser Canyon, BC woodcut (Sold Masters Gallery, Vancouver)

Canadian Pacific Railway posters have been featured as exceptional works of art in many other blogs, and they must be mentioned again in this blog. During my search for Canadian angling themes I came up with quite a nice selection of Canadian Pacific Railway tourism posters created to entice the avid angler into holidaying with rod and reel.

Four Canadian Pacific Railway Tourism Posters (20th century)

We have now explored a variety of different types of art incorporating fishing; from 19th century sketches to large canvases of Eastern fishing villages and Western fishing vacation promotions. So for anglers and art lovers alike I hope you enjoy some of the imagery presented. Best of luck to those wanting to catch lots of fish, as we try and "catch" some great paintings to have in the gallery this fall/winter season.


I conclude with a personal favourite fishing themed work of art by Jack Cowin.

Flies (2013) hand-coloured etching

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