The Fish and the Man
Charles Webster Hawthorne ( American, 1872 - 1930 )
Vigorous applications of paint—often containing varnish mixed into layers of glazing—add intensity to this image of a Cape Cod fisherman and his prize haul. A devoted pupil and studio assistant of William Merritt Chase, Charles Webster Hawthorne founded his own summer art program in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the early 20th century. He became one of the leading painters in the famed artists’ colony, known particularly for his portraits of working-class individuals.
His heavy application of paint and thick brush strokes evoke the handling of Frans Hals and Diego Velázquez. These European masters were held up as models for emulation by Hawthorne's teacher, William Merritt Chase. In his fishing portraits, Hawthorne adapted this style to evoke the rugged characters of his subjects. This piece illustrates Hawthorne's naturalism as he carefully records precise details of the subjects while using broad, painterly brushwork. The Fish and the Man won a purchase prize in 1948 and became part of the Dallas Art Association's collection.
William Keyse Rudolph, DMA Label copy (2006.26), September 2006.
William Keyse Rudolph, DMA Acquisition proposal (2006.26), September 2006.
According to Rual Askew's article for the Dallas Morning News reporting the acquisiton of The Fish and the Man by the Dallas Museum of Art, "the naturalism practiced by Mr. Hawthorne was so faithful and exact that a Texas physician once borrowed the work to illustrate skin cancer caused by overlong exposure to weather-- an occupational disease not recorded by art-touristic exploitation of seaside subject matter." (Rual Askew, "On Museum's Two Recent Acquisitions," Dallas Morning News (March 21, 1948), section 1, page 5.)
In his classes, Charles Webster Hawthorne encouraged students to begin a painting by laying down color with a palette knife or large brush to force themselves to think of the whole picture and avoid getting preoccupied with details.