Pushing for Rail
Thomas Eakins American
Eakins enjoyed hunting waterfowl with his father and friends in the tidal marshes of New Jersey’s Delaware River. In addition to a severe case of malaria, the 1873 expeditions resulted in a series of works, including this painting. Hunting for rail—small game birds that populate marshes—is possible only at high tide, when the "pusher" can propel the flat-bottomed boat through the thick reeds. Here, three pairs of sportsmen are shown in a frieze-like composition with nearly microscopic detail. Cleverly, Eakins depicts them in the successive phases of the hunt: loading the gun; steadying the boat and waiting; and taking aim.
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