J.L. Petrie. "The Dollar or Butter Fish."From William C. Harris’ The Fishes Of North America That Are Captured On Hook And Line. New York, 1895-98. 10 x 17. Folio. Chromolithograph.
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From an excellently and accurately rendered series of prints of North American game fish from William C. Harris’ ambitious late nineteenth century folio volume. This work was intended to be of superior quality, and efforts were made to this end to the extent that the costs were so high that only one of the two intended volumes was ever completed. In the first part, the publishers stated “neither labor nor money will be economized in the effort to make the publication unequaled in angling literature.” Unfortunately, this care in production was not rewarded with financial success, though the artistic success was considerable.
Harris stated that the volume was intended to give as much information as possible about the native American game fish as well as to provide lifelike portraits of various species. For this purpose a professional artist, J.L. Petrie, accompanied Harris around the country in order to paint the fish in as fresh a state as possible, “before the sheen of their color tints had faded.” Harris would catch a fish, lay it out for Petrie, who would immediately paint the subject. These paintings were then painstakingly reproduced by chromolithography, using as many as 15 tints per image in order “to reproduce the exact tone and mellow transfusion of color so frequently seen in many species of fish when alive. So closely has the oil effect been followed that an expert cannot distinguish the painting from its copy at a distance of ten feet.” With much justification, Harris states that the prints “are minutely accurate in anatomical detail and in the more difficult matter of coloration.”