Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905) The Last Shot, Oil on canvas, Unsigned. Dimensions: h: 26 x w: 36 in. Provenance: Collection of John C. Myers. Exhibitions: The Last Shot" was exhibited at the Near East Foundation Gallery in New York City and was mentioned in an article published in the New York Times on April 16, 1952. It was there referred to as by Tait and as being the source from which the Currier and Ives lithograph of the same name was taken. Other Notes: "The Last Shot" is one of only twenty-two paintings Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait painted in his western series. This series was the first he executed upon his arrival in the United States. The series was completed in a one decade period from 1852 to the early 1860's. Tait's fascination with western life was fed by his involvement with George Catlins Indian Gallery in Manchester , England. He was employed as a living mannequin to depict through costumery, makeup and performance an Indian of the West. This experience in the 1840's in all likelihood help him make his decision to emigrate to the U.S. in the early 1850's. The western series was very popular with the American public .This was the period of western expansion and as such whetted the appetite of the american populace for depictions of western movement, and in particular the visualization of the challenges experienced by the pioneers blazing the trail In particular depiction of the vastness of the plains as well as unique wildlife encountered appealed greatly to the publics curiosity. The most exciting subject was of encounters with the native population who were not pleased with the encroachment on their lands. This encroachment by trappers, hunters and trail blazers and the conflict and challenge it provided was the main thrust of the paintings in the western series. The paintings in the series provided a loose narrative of the western experience. Titles such as "Trappers Following the Trail, At Fault"; The Check, Keep Your Distance"; " The Pursuit", "The Last War Whoop" and ultimately the painting here at issue "The Last Shot". These images provided the public the adventure they craved. Through beautiful rendering both of animals and action figures, Tait was able to convey the movement, danger and tension involved in western exploration. "The Last Shot" fulfills all these requirements. Although largely a self taught painter, his inherent artistic abilities allowed him to associate with fellow artists. Among them was William Ranney ,who he met upon his arrival in the U.S.. Ranney had been in the Texas army and was also a painter of the West. . His stories of his experiences as well as reading other western accounts shaped Tait's views of the West. Ranney possessed a large collection of western artifacts including clothing , weapons, and stuffed animals which would aid Tait's accurate depiction of the western experience. It should be remembered that Tait himself never ventured, West which makes his western oeuvre all the more interesting. 'The Last Shot", an unsigned canvas attributed to A.F.Tait, clearly falls within the subject matter of the western series. The realistic rendering of the event ,the firing of the trapper's last shot to save himself from being tomahawked, draws upon Tait's understanding of such an occurence. The artists depiction of the horses,there musculature as well as fearful expressions is in keeping with Tait's exceptional ability to render animals. The details depicted as to the accoutrements being used such as the shield ,the tomahawk itself, and the attire of both trapper and Indian have been in all likelihood drawn from observations in the atelier of William Ranney.. All of these details add to and enhance the narrative of this remarkable work. Tait's ability to render the vastness of the prairie through the use of figures disappearing in the distance is repeated in several of the works in the series. In this painting, distance is conveyed by the riderless horse disappearing into the distance, the dead rider seen lying in the deep grass between the legs of the horse on the right. Lastly, the rendering of the vast panoply of the sky adds to the seemingly endless scope of the painting. The Present image was chosen by Currier and Ives as "The Last Shot". It was delineated by Louis Maurer. Maurer delineated other Tait works specifically "A Check, Keep Your Distance" and " Trappers on The Prairie, Peace or War". The "Last Shot" has been observed to be remarkably like Tait by William H. Goetzmann and William N. Goetzmann in the book The West of the Imagination (2nd ed.). Comparison of the print to the painting shows exceptional similarity. The Last Shot" was exhibited at the Near East Foundation Gallery in New York City and was mentioned in an article published in the New York Times on April 16, 1952. It was there referred to as by Tait and as being the source from which the Currier and Ives lithograph of the same name was taken. Although the lot in question is not mentioned in the incomplete catalogue raisonné held by the Adirondack Museum, its similarities to known and acknowledged works by Tait as well as the observations stated above are more than coincidental and place it in the western series. As there are hundreds of Tait's works which are not included in the Adirondack Museums pamphlet the omission of "The Last Shot" is hardly dispositive as to its authenticity. As many of the known paintings of this series by Tait are in museums, this is a unique opportunity to acquire such an exceptional painting. Its placement as possibly the final statement in Tait's western series makes its significance noteworthy.
Note condition: Conservation of painting done by Fodera Fine Art Conservation in 1990. The adhesion of the paint film and ground to the original canvas support was poor. The painting had been glue lined in order to treat the extensive cracking, cupping and lifting paint which resulted. In addition, there was a loss of paint, ground and canvas at center top, diagonally to the left of the tomahawk, in the elliptical blue area of sky. This area had been broadly over painted. The edges of the painting also displayed paint loss and previous restorations. The painting was generally dull and yellowed, due to a discolored varnish layer and glue residue from the lining. The painting was faced with BEVA 371 and Japanese tissue. It was removed from the stretcher and the glue lining was reversed. The glue residue was cleaned from the back of the original canvas. The painting was treated on the vacuum hot table in order to remove the facing and to facilitate consolidation of the paint film. It was vapor treated on the vacuum hot table in order to reduce cupping. The area of canvas loss was replaced. The painting was cleaned and lined with BEVA 371, on sailcloth and Belgian lined, with a D-8 mylar interleaf. It was then restretched on a new, custom built stretcher. Losses were filled and inpainted. The painting was varnished. The final varnish is LK-80. The edges were taped and a protective foamcore backing was affixed. The painting was properly fitted in it's frame.