Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905) was a famous British American landscape artist well known for his wildlife paintings. He was mostly associated with the art scene of New York City for most of his career. His canvases were filled with stories and he was able to portray a good drama and conflict in his genre paintings.
Life of Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait
Arthur Tait, the youngest of his large family, was born at Livesey Hall near Liverpool in England and his early schooling took place at Lancaster. His father went bankrupt because of failure in his business after Napoleonic wars and hence Arthur was sent to live on farms with his relatives. At age of 15, he started working as a clerk for art dealers namely Vittore Zanetti and Thomas Agnew in Manchester. In Spare time he taught himself the art of painting by copying the works held at Royal Institute.
He self-taught himself and also pursued his art studies with help of English edition of Principles of Designs which contained the outline drawings from a catalog of facial expression and classic models. He also used to sketch at night at Manchester Royal Institution according to his family. In 1838 he left the business of reproducing Agnew Lithography.
In 1839, he exhibited his first work “Pencil Landscape” at the Manchester Royal Institution Exhibition of Modern Art. His artwork was becoming more prolific and his passion urged him to leave his clerical job and become a drawing teacher and also a lithographer. Mostly his lithographs subjects in the 1840s were of architecture and of topographic views but those two arts that were executed in 1842 were subjects of animals that were based on paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer and Richard Ansdell.
In 1845 he published “Views on the Manchester and Leeds Railway”, a volume of lithographs that shows public interest in railroads. In 1848 he turned his interest in oil painting after the collapse of his interest in lithographic interest. By late 1840s, he became knowledgeable of the Americas when attending an exhibition in Paris of George Catlin. In 1850 he immigrated to the United States establishing a summer painting camp in the Adirondacks.
The period from 1850 to 1860 was very high time for Tait. His paintings were liked and purchased by Easterners giving them a view of life. To make more publicity of Tait, Currier and Ives reproduced his lithographic works in 1852.
His talent got more promotions when his exhibitions of more than 200 paintings were held at the National academy of design in New York during the 19th century. Resulting to this he was elected as an associate of the National Academy in 1855 and a full member of the Academy in1858.
By 1860s, he became renowned for painting games, fowl and domestic animals in natural locations. People’s then became affectionate for the companionship of Tait’s fishing and hunting, presentation of campfire and cabin and he also sticks to demand of people for natural scenes and wildlife.
Though he was in New York, he spent most of his time in Adirondacks to portray natural scenes whether it may be as small as scenes of farm animals like rooster, chicken, and sheep. He held a permanent place in heart of art lovers and local public as he gave focus on minute attention of detailing and on proper usage of dramatic light. Next generation artists like Michael Harnett also took inspiration from Tait.
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s Famous Artworks
His some of the famous works are
- The Reprimand in 1852
- The life of a hunter: A Tight Fix in 1856
- Spaniel Chasing Ducks in 1863
- The Adirondacks in 1869
- Doe and Fawns in 1874
- Ten Point Buck in Evening Twilight in 1833
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait Legacy
From 1874 to 1877, Tait lived nearby Long Lake with his second wife spending his time on painting and sketching. In 1880, while giving birth to his son, his second wife died. Tait then married his half-sister and to impress her, he sold his house in 1882 which was at Long Lake. He last visited there in September 1888.
After that, he moved to New York and then to Yonkers and he died there in 1905. Despite changing trends, Tait remained popular throughout the American Civil war. By the end of 19th Century, National Academy of Design held an exhibition of his work of around 200 paintings to honor him.
He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx of New York City.