Gold Medal in Natural History Art
November 20, 2012
Artist James Prosek, here at work in his studio, is the recipient of the Academy’s Gold Medal in Natural History Art.
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A leading artist, naturalist and conservationist with a unique ability to paint fish so lifelike they seem to jump off the paper will receive the Gold Medal in Natural History Art from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, it was announced today.
James Prosek, dubbed “the Audubon of the fishing world” by The New York Times, was 20 when he completed his first book, Trout: An Illustrated History, featuring 70 of his watercolor paintings of North American trout. Since then, the Connecticut artist has published a dozen books about fish and displayed his paintings in galleries and museums across the country and the world. He co-founded a conservation initiative called World Trout in 2004, which raises money for coldwater habitat conservation through the sale of T-shirts featuring trout paintings.
Prosek will receive his award and speak about his life’s passion in a free public event on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Academy. The program starts at 6:30 p.m., and Prosek will sign copies of his latest book, Ocean Fishes: Paintings of Saltwater Fish (Rizzoli New York, October 2012). To register, go to http://prosek.eventbrite.com/#.
The award and talk coincide with an exhibit of Prosek’s work on display in the Academy’s Art of Science Gallery through Jan. 21. James Prosek: Ocean Fishes features 14 life-size watercolors from his latest book. These are extremely detailed paintings of Atlantic sailfish, king mackerel, mako shark, swordfish, and others with which the artist has had a personal experience. The largest fish in the series is the 12-foot-8-inch-long blue marlin, based on a fish the artist traveled to the Cape Verde Islands, off West Africa, to see.
"James Prosek's extraordinary paintings are so infused with life that they seem to jump off the paper," said Robert Peck, curator of art and artifacts at the Academy and chairman of the Gold Medal selection committee. "Like Audubon, the artist to whom he is often compared, James goes well beyond depicting the superficial appearance of his subjects. There is a power in his work that stays with you long after you have left the exhibit."
The Academy established the Gold Medal in Natural History Art in 1980 to recognize people whose artistic endeavors and life's work have contributed to the understanding and appreciation of living things. Previous recipients include photographers Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter and naturalists and authors Roger Tory Peterson, Peter Matthiessen and John McPhee.
“Receiving this medal from the Academy is a huge honor,” said Prosek. “I’m thrilled beyond words to be in the company of some of my greatest influences and heroes, including Peterson, Matthiessen and McPhee.”
In preparation for his next book, which is a personal inquiry into how nature is named and ordered, Prosek will be an “artist in residence” at the Academy in early December and will use the time to discuss with Academy curators how species are scientifically organized and classified.
Prosek has written for The New York Times and National Geographic. His other books include Joe and Me: An Education in Fishing and Friendship, The Complete Angler: A Connecticut Yankee Follows in the Footsteps of Walton, Fly-Fishing the 41st: Around the World on the 41st Parallel, and the children’s book A Good Day's Fishing. He wrote and co-produced a Peabody Award-winning fishing documentary shown on ESPN and is currently working on a documentary on eels for the series “Nature” on PBS. He lives next to a fishing pond in Easton, Conn.