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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© David Bates
American, born 1952
Stringer of Sheepsheads I
Oil on linen

76 x 48 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Nona and Richard Barrett, Bettie Cartwright and Colin Kennedy, Isabel B. Wilson, The Brown Foundation, Inc., Melissa and Albert Joseph Grobmyer IV, Puffer-Sweiven, L.P., Carol Ballard, Janet and Paul Hobby, David Durham, and Edwin A. Eubanks

Arts of North America

Throughout his career, David Bates has made everyday life on the Gulf of Mexico his chief subject matter. Bates brings an intimacy and naturalism to these landscapes and portraits, creating preparatory sketches on site.

In the early 1990s Bates began an extended series of paintings of the Galveston and Bolivar coastal communities, a change of focus that affected both his palette and compositional structures. Stringer of Sheepshead I typifies this shift in Bates’s work. The image is bathed is brilliant sunlight, the standing figure is closely cropped, and the composition is broken up into forceful, structural elements as the line of fish, the planks of the pier, the waves, and the clouds establish a staccato rhythm across the canvas. He endows one of this region’s most important activities—fishing—with heroic integrity. The large scale of the work, as well as Bates’s profoundly physical and sculptural handling of the paint, monumentalizes a pier fisherman and his string of freshly caught sheepshead.