Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905); The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix; 1856; Oil on canvas.

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait ( 1819 - 1905)
A Tight Fix—Bear Hunting, Early Winter [The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix]
Oil on canvas
Photography by Edward C. Robison III.
Early American Art Gallery

Description of A Tight Fix--Bear Hunting, Early Winter

NARRATOR: The painting you are in front of is entitled A Tight Fix--Bear Hunting, Early Winter and was created by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait in 1856 using oil on canvas. It is 40 inches tall by 60 inches wide and depicts an action scene set in a wintery forest landscape. It is displayed in an ornate gold frame that hangs roughly at eye level.

If this painting were a picture in a storybook, it would illustrate the climax of the story. Immediately, our eyes are drawn to the dramatic confrontation between a hunter and a bear in the foreground of the painting. The large black bear is to our left. It sits on its haunches with its claws raised. Its mouth is opened in a snarl, and a splotch of red on its side reveals an injury. To the right of the bear, the hunter has fallen to the snowy ground. His back and left side profile faces us. Jaw clenched with fierce determination, he props himself up using his left hand, while his right hand holds a bloody hunting knife, raised to further defend himself from the bear’s imminent attack.

The fight appears to have escalated for quite some time. The man’s tan buckskin shirt and pants are ripped and smeared with traces of snow and blood. His hat and powder horn have fallen to the ground behind him. His hunting rifle lies in the snow underneath the bear’s haunches, rendering it useless, and the barrel of the revolver visible at the left waistband of the his pants points down into the snow. Finally, we notice a blood trail, the red sharply contrasting with the white snow that covers the ground, leading toward the forest in the background.

The background of the painting is a dense, wintery forest full of barren trees. On the right side of the canvas, behind one of the trees, we see a second hunter with his rifle raised. At first glance, one might assume that he is aiming at the bear, but upon closer inspection, the perspective is unclear. Is he aiming at the bear or at something beyond the frame?

[End of Stop]