Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait


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Painter and lithographer. Although he never traveled beyond Chicago, he is best known today for dramatic images of western life, usually scenes of struggle between frontiersmen and Indians or wild animals. However, these number only about a dozen different images (some known in several variants), painted during the 1850s and early 1860s. In addition, he painted popular genre scenes of outdoor leisure activity, such as hunting and camping, as well as birds and animals set in natural surroundings. He also helped to initiate the nineteenth-century vogue for still lifes featuring dead game birds or fish. Many of his works became known to a wide public through prints issued by Currier & Ives or other firms. Tait was indebted to Pre-Raphaelitism for the precise realism of his style and to the traditions of English sporting prints and animal paintings for his subjects. For western scenes, he borrowed particularly from the work of William Ranney, but he also knew the art of George Catlin and other artist-explorers. Born in Livesey Hall, near Liverpool, Tait went to work at fifteen for an art dealer in Manchester. There he taught himself to paint by studying art books and works on display at the city's Royal Institution. During the 1840s he worked as a teacher and lithographer before emigrating to the United States in 1850. He subsequently lived in New York or its suburbs. Within a year or two, he first visited the Adirondack Mountains, where until the 1880s he summered regularly and occasionally stayed through the winter. His images helped to popularize the region as a tourist and sporting destination. Later Tait spent summers in rural areas closer to the city, and some works of this period reflect the bucolic environment he observed there. He died at the residence of his final years, in Yonkers.

Subjects: Art.

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