Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Oil on canvas
13 x 30 1/16 in. (33 x 76.4 cm)
Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1916
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.