It’s no secret the principals of The Caldwell Gallery love to fly-fish. Our catch and release fishing echoes the “catch and release” nature of selling art. A purchase can be thought of as a catch, and the subsequent sale is the release. In between, we like to think of ourselves as custodians instead of owners. We first encountered Ogden Pleissner (1905-1983) through his sporting art, specifically his fly-fishing paintings. As an avid sportsman himself, Pleissner’s intimate knowledge and experience as a fisherman and hunter brought an authenticity to his art which other sportsmen appreciated during his lifetime…and in the thirty years since his passing.
We’ve had the pleasure of “catching and releasing” numerous exceptional works by Mr. Pleissner over the years. A highlight was one of his greatest fishing watercolors, A Big One Hooked, which was formerly in the collection of John Whitney Payson. The drama and tenuous nature of having a once-in-a-lifetime Atlantic salmon on the line is captured with a level of skill and understanding that reflect a virtuoso at work. It now resides in the happy home of another avid sportsman.
Not all of our works by Mr. Pleissner are sporting scenes. We own an exceptional early work by the artist, which is quite topical as it depicts the time during early Spring in the Northeast where the trees are just starting to shoot out their leaves and winter’s colors are giving way to the brilliant palette which harkens renewal and growth. Painted circa 1932, in Rindge, New Hampshire, this oil painting is one of our current favorites.
If you’re interested in learning more about Mr. Pleissner’s art, we have an online monograph which you might find interesting. If you’re ever in Shelburne, Vermont please make it a point to visit the Pleissner Gallery at the Shelburne Museum which is an extraordinary small museum within a museum – it is well worth your time. In addition to his studio effects, there is a rotating exhibition of works from all phases of the artist’s career, including his time during WWII as a commissioned Captain in the Air Force. After being sent first to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, which frequently experience rain and fog, the artist found working in oils to be difficult due to their long drying times. He switched to the more spontaneous (and faster drying) medium of watercolor. This was a pivotal shift in the artist’s career, which thereafter would be defined by his work in watercolor.
Mr. Pleissner, we’d like to salute you on your birthday, and thank you for being a meaningful part of the art we’ve been so privileged to handle in our 40 years in business. We wish we’d had the chance to wet a fly with you in some distant misty river or to have shared a few fishing stories with you around a warm fire. Happy birthday!
Finally, in the spirit of catch and release, the great state of Alaska, and tall fishing tales, here’s a classic from our personal archives showing a spry Alaska rainbow deciding exactly how it wanted to be released. The fisherman’s face (our intrepid founder)…priceless!