Preserving Vintage and Antique Fish Art.
Preserving Vintage and Antique Fish Art.
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William Charles Harris

William Charles Harris was one of the first authors of a comprehensive book of fish with high quality color illustrations published in 1898. He was also the author of the American Angler an illustrated magazine.

THE FISHES OF NORTH AMERICA - "In his publication, which may be said to be the life-work of Mr. Harris, who has spent many years in its preparation, occupies a field entirely its "own in ichthyic literature. In fact, no previous publication has appeared that attempts to cover so large a field, or present so great a number of portraits of American fishes, eighty or more of which, colored as in life, will be given in the book, which will also contain about 1,000 drawings in ink of different species of fish. The portraits of fishes are first painted in oil, at the moment they are taken from the water, before their color tints have faded, then lithographed on stone in colors, of which as many as fifteen (15) different tints have been required to reproduce the exact tone and mellow transfusion of color so frequently seen in many species of fish when alive. So closely has the oil effect been followed that an expert cannot distinguish the painting from its copy at a distance of ten feet. This accuracy in reproduction of the canvas renders the lithograph still more attractive when framed. A full set of these portraits forms an art collection, which as works of reference, will become in- valuable".

Featured Publications

  • Harris, William C. (William Charles), 1830-1905, ed.: The angler's guide book and tourist's gazeteer of the fishing waters of the United States and Canada, 1885.
  • Harris, William C. (William Charles), 1830-1905: The fishes of North America that are captured on hook and line. With eighty colored plates made from oil portraits of living fishes before their color tints had faded. (New York, The Fishes of North America publishing co., 1898).
  • Harris, William C. (William Charles), 1830-1905: The Sportsman's guide to the hunting and shooting grounds of the United States and Canada [electronic resource] / (New York : Angler's Pub. Co. : C. Dillingham, [1888?])
  • Harris, William C. (William Charles), 1830-1905: The basses, fresh-water and marine, (New York, F. A. Stokes company, [1905]), also by Louis Rhead and Tarleton H. Bean.

During 12 years of extensive field work, Harris and artist John L. Petrie traveled over 28,000 miles, from the eastern United States, north through Canada, west to Washington’s Spokane River and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Harris, editor of a popular weekly The American Angler, and author of The Angler’s Guide (1885) and The Sportsman’s Guide (1888), wrote of his passion for the sport and art that inspired this work. “As anglers we credit fish with all the best and worst sentiments and qualities of human nature; they love, they hate, they fight and fraternize; they reason a priori, are cunning and even thrifty… There does not exist a more interesting and fascinating study than that of our fish-fauna.” After Harris caught each fish, it was immediately rendered in oils by Petrie before any colors or tints faded. Forty of these paintings were then drawn on stone (some requiring as many as 15 stones to achieve the correct coloring) and the resulting vividly-colored chromolithographs, printed on canvas-finished stock, were remarkable for their fidelity to the original oil paintings. Harris had planned a two-volume work, but these 20 parts are all that were published. 


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