Samuel Marsden Brookes (American, 1816–1892)
Salmon Trout and Smelt, 1873
Oil on canvas
40 ⅜ x 32 ⅛ in. (102.6 x 81.6 cm)


In this large painting, two mighty salmon trout are presented at life-size; Samuel Marsden Brookes allows no convenient miniaturization. Reflecting an ethos of respect for the hunted, the weight, strength, and great substance of these specimens are apparent; the stone wall on which they hang does not dominate them, and the dark green leaves underneath serve as glorifying ornamentation as much as greens for the pot. The smelts draped over the lower quarters of the salmon give another indication of scale and complete the picture of an arrested moment hard-won from the river rapids. British-born Brookes, who ended up in California, was the undisputed master of painting the glistening silver that is only found on the skins of fish, and he earned a great following among collectors of the “huntsman’s still life” genre, especially among the wealthy San Francisco elite.


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