People often ask how exhibitions are developed. Sometimes it starts with a book, in this case – Peter Corbin: An Artist’s Creel. Peter Corbin presented the hardbound volume by Tom Davis and foreword by John Merwin to the National Sporting Library & Museum a few years ago. This sounds a lot more formal than it was. Peter was on his way back to Millbrook, NY, from the 2013 Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, GA, where he’d been the featured artist. He popped into the Museum, introduced himself, and dropped off the hardbound volume published by Hudson Hill Press in 2005. The exchange was brief, but the cover of the book captured my imagination. It sat on my desk for weeks reminding me of how much I love Wyoming.

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The 24 x 40-inch painting, Partners, 2004,  reproduced on the front cover was loaned by Mr. & Mrs. William C. Egan, III to the current NSLM exhibition.

I was already familiar with Peter’s work and only now feel marginally better admitting that we had strongly considered one of his paintings from the American Museum of Fly Fishing collection for the 2012 NSLM Angling in the Western World exhibition. We had a lot of tough choices to make in the twentieth-century section for the broad survey of the topic spanning over 300 years and ended up not including his painting.

We try to touch on a variety of NSLM’s core mission topics as often as possible which, other than equestrian pursuits, includes field sports such as freshwater fly fishing and wingshooting. As I thumbed through An Artist’s Creel, I was reminded that a member of the NSLM had suggested that the recognized sporting and wildlife artist, who is also an avid wingshooter and angler himself, would be a good candidate to consider for a fly fishing exhibit.

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Power and Grace, 2001, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, Collection of the Treiber Family, © Peter Corbin, 2001

The emerald green water and the energy of the leaping tarpon in Power and Grace caught my eye. Although Peter has also painted many freshwater scenes, this was the opposite of a depiction of a serene, contemplative moment. There’s been debate in fly fishing circles about whether fresh and saltwater fly fishing can even be considered the same sport. The NSLM’s collections focus on freshwater. With the addition of the George “Chappie” and Mary Chapman book collection in 2012, the Library became one of the most comprehensive research centers on twentieth-century freshwater fly fishing in the United States.

The diversity of the angling compositions in Peter’s book intrigued me. All captured the essence of some of the finest fly fishing waters in North America.

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Near the Net, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 19 x 32 inches, Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Walter C. Teagle, III, © Peter Corbin, 1980

Near the Net, 1980, an acrylic painting of salmon fishing on the Restigouche River, Silas Beach, Quebec, Canada, won Peter the American Salmon Federation’s Artist of the Year in  1981. I learned that he came from a family of fly fisherman; his father taught him to cast his first fly by the age of seven. His great-grandfather started a hunting and fishing club in the Catskills, and Peter spent much time over the years trout fishing in the region, like the fly fisherman in the painting, The Sound of the Falls, 2002.

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The Sound of the Falls, 2002, oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches, Private Collection, ©Peter Corbin, 2002

Peter’s lifetime love for sport and art are reflected in each of his paintings. All of the works on view through July 3rd in Line Dance: The Art of Fly Fishing by Peter Corbin were selected to show the variety of compositions for which he has become known during his almost forty year career.

To gain a bit more insight into Peter’s quiet passion, motivations, and philosophy on art, we invite you to join him for a Gallery Talk on March 19th at 10:00 am and to take a moment to watch the 10-minute narrated slideshow below which he created to accompany the exhibition. A catalog is also available if you’d like to learn more about Peter Corbin’s sporting art career and fly fishing adventures. We look forward to seeing you in the galleries.

…and to think it all started with a book.

 

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Our recent Fellow, Collin McKinney, has left the NSLM and returned to Bucknell University. We asked Collin to share some of his experiences over the last two months in Middleburg and in our collections. Here’s what he had to share.

I arrived in Middleburg on a sunny day at the beginning in January. I think it might have been the only sunny day during my entire stay. Notwithstanding the snow and cold—and it sure was cold—I spent a fantastic two months working at the National Sporting Library. During my eight weeks in Middleburg I had a simple routine. I would wake up and go for a jog around town and out by the Salamander Resort. After breakfast I would work at the library, compiling notes and references from the books in the library’s collection. After lunch and an espresso at Common Grounds I would head back to the library and work until closing time. After dinner in the cottage I would review my notes for the day and plan my work for the next morning. That might not seem very exciting to most people, but for an academic to be able to escape department meetings, course prep, and household chores in order to focus on research, it was pure bliss.

My short stay was extremely productive. I am researching the link between masculinity, militarism, and sport in Spain. Although the library’s collection is especially rich in American and British sources, there are also some real treasures on Spain. I found books on bullfighting, jousting, fencing, dueling, and hunting. One of my favorite discoveries was a hunting manual attributed to the King Alfonso XI, Libro de la montería (the NSLM has an 1582 edition as well as a facsimile version from the nineteenth century).

Cover page from "Libro de la Monteria" used in Collin's research
Cover page from “Libro de la Monteria” used in Collin’s research

Besides being a fascinating description of the hunting practices in medieval Spain, it confirms the link between hunting and martial success. King Alfonso tells his readers that: “a knight should always engage in anything to do with arms and chivalry, and if he cannot do so in war, he should do so in activities which resemble war. And the chase is most similar to war.” Over the centuries, as military activity became professionalized and Spain created a standing army, men no longer needed to hunt but continued to do so for pleasure.

Woodcut illustration from "Libro de monteria"
Woodcut illustration from “Libro de  la monteria”

While a cursory glance might suggest that modern sport is far removed from the battlefield, a more careful look will reveal the link between field sports, indeed all sport, and warfare.  The next time you turn on a football game, notice the military rhetoric used by sportscasters, watch the strategies involved as teams attack and defend their terrain, and note the way spectators demonstrate their loyalties with flags, fight songs, and uniforms as they celebrate symbolic battles of controlled violence.

Another illustration from "Libro de la monteria" - Dogs and men hunting elk with a fence barrier
Another illustration from “Libro de la monteria” – Dogs and men hunting elk

During the coming months I plan to write two articles. The first is titled “How to Be a Man in Nineteenth-Century Spain,” which will outline the tension between traditional, rough masculinity and modern, refined masculinity. This study will examine the rise of the bullfight as an example of the way that bellicose masculinity was socialized, codified, and relegated to the sporting arena by Spain’s middle class. The second article I plan to write deals with the sportification of warfare more generally, beginning with medieval field sports and continuing to present-day activities like soccer and tennis.