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Pushing for Rail

Artist:
Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Date:
1874
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
13 x 30 1/16 in. (33 x 76.4 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1916
Accession Number:
16.65
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 764
Eakins enjoyed hunting waterfowl with his father and friends in the tidal marshes of New Jersey’s Delaware River. In addition to a severe case of malaria, the 1873 expeditions resulted in a series of works, including this painting. Hunting for rail—small game birds that populate marshes—is possible only at high tide, when the "pusher" can propel the flat-bottomed boat through the thick reeds. Here, three pairs of sportsmen are shown in a frieze-like composition with nearly microscopic detail. Cleverly, Eakins depicts them in the successive phases of the hunt: loading the gun; steadying the boat and waiting; and taking aim.
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