Ogden M. Pleissner (1905-1983)
Jimmy's Pool on the Restigouche, 1938
Playing a Salmon - New Brunswick
signed "Pleissner" lower left
oil on canvas, 24 1/4 by 36 1/4 in.
titled on Sportsman's Edge Ltd., New York label on back
Ogden Minton Pleissner was born in Brooklyn, New York, and studied figure painting and portraiture with Frank DuMond (1865-1951) and Frederick J. Boston (1855-1932) at the Art Students League of New York. Despite growing up in the city, Pleissner was attracted to the outdoors and, as a teen, he visited dude ranches in Wyoming, where he sketched from life. Pleissner wanted to be classified primarily as a landscape painter, who also loved to hunt and fish. His subjects range from the landscapes of Europe to salmon fishing in Quebec, and his style is informed by the classical traditions. In 1932 one of Pleissner's paintings was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, making him the youngest artist in their collection. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, as a member of the Salmagundi Club, Pleissner frequently won club prizes in the annual shows and gained special note from the New York Times' art critic, Howard Devree. Pleissner's art is included in more than thirty public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. His art hangs in the offices of the Pentagon, West Point, and the Air Force Academy.
In his monograph on Pleissner, Peter Bergh writes, "Great sporting artists are great artists who know the habits of wild creatures and have committed to memory every detail of habitat...[They] have experienced the thrill of an Atlantic salmon."
Indeed, Pleissner recalled his New Brunswick salmon adventures, "I drove up there alone and I sketched around for a while...I had a tent and camping equipment so we got in a canoe and ran the whole length of the Restigouche and camped along the way" In a 1970 "Sports Illustrated" article by Pat Ryan, the author reports that scores of salmon would lie in this highly productive salmon pool.
In this painting, the surefooted guides steady the canoe while the fly fisherman plays the large leaping Atlantic salmon. Renowned for his ability to render water with paint, here Pleissner captures the river, the colors of the guide's shirt and vest, as well as the reflection of the mottled gray sky. He ties the composition together with the horizontals and verticals of the surrounding trees and the guide's net and pole, and captures the viewer's eye with the roiling water and the rhythmic quality of the fisherman and guides working in sync to land the quarry.
This significant oil painting displays Pleissner's characteristic excellence and is among the artist's finest works to come to the market. In it, Pleissner successfully tackles the challenges of painting an on-the-water action scene, rewarding the artist and viewers with a vivid depiction of one of the most exciting moments in all of sport.
Provenance: Private Collection, Pennsylvania
Literature: Peter M. Bergh, "The Art of Ogden M. Pleissner," Boston, MA, 1984, pp. 73-74.
Pat Ryan, "A River Running Out of Eden," Sports Illustrated, May 25, 1970, pp. 86-102.
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