Wild Spaces, Open Seasons traces the theme of hunting and fishing in American art from the early nineteenth century through World War II. Describing a remarkable group of American paintings and sculpture, the contributors reveal the pervasiveness of the subjects and the fascinating contexts from which they emerged. In one important example after another, the authors demonstrate that representations of hunting and fishing did more than illustrate subsistence activities or diverting pastimes. The portrayal of American hunters and fishers also spoke to American ambitions and priorities.
In his introduction, noted outdoorsman and author Stephen J. Bodio surveys the book’s major artists, who range from society painters to naturalists and modernists. Margaret C. Adler then explores how hunting and fishing imagery in American art reflects traditional myths, some rooted in classicism, others in the American appetite for tall tales. Kory W. Rogers, in his discussion of works that valorize the dangers hunters faced pursuing their prey, shows how American artists constructed new rituals at a time when the United States was rapidly transforming from a frontier society into a modern urban nation. Shirley Reece-Hughes looks at depictions of families, pairs, and parties of hunters and fishers and how social bonding reinvigorated American society at a time of social, political, and cultural change. Finally, Adam M. Thomas considers themes of exploration and hunting as integral to conveying the individualism that was a staple of westward expansion.
In their depictions of the hunt or the catch, American artists connected a dynamic and developing nation to its past and its future. Through the examination of major works of art, Wild Spaces, Open Seasons brings to light an often-overlooked theme in American painting and sculpture.