Fishing: Portrait of the Artist by a River

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    This painting is a self portrait of the artist, Henry Leonidas Rolfe. He is shown seated on a bank, smoking a pipe. At his feet are the three large fish he has just caught with the fishing rod behind him. Other fish are seen piled in a basket by his side.

    In the book ‘Pike and Perch’ (published 1898) writer and angler Alfred Jardine reminisced on a fishing expedition he made with Rolfe:

    ‘I well remember when the late H. L. Rolfe (the Landseer of fish painters) was my companion, on December 2Oth, 1876, fishing a grand expanse of water where pikes fed fast and furiously all that short winter's day. My friend was not very well, and as the weather was cold he sat for some time in the stern of the boat wrapped up in a rug, leaving me to do the fishing. Pike were breaking the water all around us, and the bait had only to be spun near a fish to be instantly seized. The results of that day's sport were fifty-four jack and pike, the largest 17lbs., and three fine perch, from 3lbs. to 2lbs. each. The waggonette arriving, it was time to pack up my rod and tackle; but on nearing the boathouse I made one parting cast, and landed a pike of 11Ibs.’

  • About the artist
    Henry Leonidas Rolfe, painter of fishing subjects, was a highly productive artist. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, British Institution, Royal Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street, Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts in Dublin. Rolfe lived Holloway, North London, in 1847, but later moved to Hammersmith and then to various addresses in the City. As well as painting oil on canvas depictions, Rolfe also painted plaster casts of fish that people had caught, including at least one cast made by the pisciculturist and naturalist Francis (Frank) Trevelyan Buckland (1826-1880). Today, his works can be found at Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington, and the Fishmonger’s Company, London.
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  • Details
    Fishing: Portrait of the Artist by a River
    Oil on canvas
    height: 58.50 cm, width: 103.00 cm
    Purchased from the Parker Gallery, October 1961
    br: H L Rolfe / 1871
    GAC number