Harlequin Fish Decoy

  • "Butch" Irvin Schramm, Harlequin Fish Decoy, mid 20th century, carved and painted wood with metal, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson, 1986.65.64

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Carved fish decoys are one of the earliest forms of American folk art. Hunters around the Bering Sea first used small bone or ivory decoys for ice fishing around 1000 AD. They believed that the decoys embodied the innua, or inner spirit of the fish. The practice spread to upstate New York and the Great Lakes, where it became a tourist industry with many communities growing around prime fishing areas. Ice fishing was banned in 1905, however, because the popularity of the sport had brought about a serious decline in large game fish. During the Depression, many hunters and fishermen turned again to fish spearing for survival. The decoys from this period are simpler, focusing on realistic shapes, colors, and movement rather than fanciful decoration (Steven Michaan, American Fish Decoys, 2003).

Title
Harlequin Fish Decoy
Artist
Date
mid 20th century
On View
Dimensions
1 1/8 x 4 7/8 x 1 7/8 in. (3.0 x 12.4 x 4.9 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

Mediums
Mediums Description
carved and painted wood with metal
Classifications
Keywords
  • Animal – fish
Object Number
1986.65.64
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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