Label Text: Trompe-l’oeil (literally, “fool the eye”) is a category of still-life painting popular in America between 1880 and 1900. Popular variations pictured a door to which were affixed hunting equipment, game, creased papers, and numerous other objects to enhance the illusion.
Grafton Tyler Brown’s more spare approach directs attention to the trout’s rose blush, spotted skin, and delicately fanning fins. Against the painted wood-grain background, Brown’s trout is not presented as a trophy of the fisherman’s prowess or even of the trompe-l’oeil painter’s virtuosity, but as a native creature of the American wilderness. The carefully rendered trout becomes an icon, presented for contemplation.
Originally from Philadelphia, Brown is recognized as the first Black artist working professionally in the American West. For over 20 years he made commercial prints of mining communities and other new settlements—essentially documenting America’s westward expansion.
During this time, he became interested in the preservation of America’s natural beauty. Trout was painted in a pivotal year, when Brown was shifting his focus from commercial
lithography to the landscape painting for which he is best known: scenic views that recorded the still pristine beauty of Yellowstone and the American West.