Born in Liverpool, England, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait worked as a young man in Manchester for the art and antiques dealer Thomas Agnew. Beginning around 1838 he worked as a lithographer in Manchester and Leeds. Although he focused on architectural and railway views in his lithographs, he began to depict animals as well, under the influence of the animal painter Sir Edwin Landseer. To test his options and find more promising opportunities as a professional artist, Tait immigrated to the United States in 1850 and quickly established himself in New York as an animal and sporting artist. He began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, where he was made an associate in 1852, and he gained wider exposure through his association with the print publisher Nathaniel Currier, and later with the firm of Currier & Ives.

Tait discovered his true métier as a painter of the bear, deer, grouse, and trout in the Adirondack woods and waters of upstate New York, where as an enthusiastic sportsman he spent several months of each year from 1851 to 1882.  On visiting the Chateaugay Lakes he became fascinated with depicting the native black bear, an animal he had not seen before in the wild.

In his later years when the patronage for sporting art all but disappeared, Tait deftly shifted to pastoral canvases of chicks, sheep, and cows in fancy gilt frames to embellish American parlors and dining rooms. 

During the last half of the nineteenth century, nearly two hundred of Tait’s paintings were shown at the National Academy of Design in New York, where he was elected Academician in 1858.  His scenes of Adirondack wildlife were also exhibited at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Brooklyn Art Association, Boston Art Club, and the Art Institute of Chicago.  His work can be found in many museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Adirondack Museum, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Denver Art Museum, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

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