Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch (1884-1976, Princeton class of 1906) was a successful businessman and friend to the Princeton University Library. In particular, Kienbusch donated an extensive collection of books, manuscripts, and other works relating to angling. In among the reels and tied flies are some amazing paintings and drawings, including Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s American Speckled Brook Trout, seen above.
When Tait immigrated to America in 1850, he was already a practicing lithographer and illustrator. His was also an enthusiastic amateur naturalist. In his spare time, Tait hiked the Adirondack Mountains; camping, hunting, and painting in a summer studio he built.
Tait produced thousands of paintings, most often romantic depictions of sportsmen and outdoor life. It was his still life of a brook trout that first caught the attention of Currier & Ives, who commissioned the elaborate “American Speckled Brook Trout” for a commercial print. Tait became one of their favorite free-lance artists, producing over forty-two designs for print reproduction. These prints sold for anywhere from 5 cents to $3.00, depending on the size and coloring. Tait wisely sold only the rights to the design and kept the oil paintings for himself, to be sold separately.
Around the same time as this painting, Tait designed the frontispiece for Charles Whitehead’s “Wild Sports in the South,” which was engraved on wood by N. Orr & Company.