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Ocean Fishes

PHILADELPHIA, October 3, 2012

James Prosek Sailfish

James Prosek has had a personal experience with each of the saltwater fish he has painted and hand-picked for a new exhibit opening Oct. 13 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

“You could even call each one a self-portrait,” said the Connecticut naturalist, artist and fisherman whose latest book, Ocean Fishes: Paintings of Saltwater Fish, debuted this month (Rizzoli New York). Fourteen life-size watercolors from the book, including a stunning 15-foot-long Blue Marlin, are featured in the exhibit James Prosek: Ocean Fishes in the Art of Science Gallery through Jan. 21. The exhibit is free with museum admission.

Dubbed “the Audubon of the fishing world” by The New York Times, Prosek wants visitors to know that his highly-detailed paintings of Atlantic sailfish, king mackerel, mako shark, swordfish, and more are not meant to represent a species as in a field guide. “I am painting an individual fish that I had a personal experience with,” he said. “The paintings are not as much about the fish as our relationships as humans to the fish.”

In showing the beauty and monumentality of fish that live in the Atlantic Ocean, Prosek imparts a conservation message, urging viewers to appreciate and preserve the species before they disappear because of overfishing or other reasons. Prosek’s paintings provide a view of each fish fresh from the ocean when its changing colors first glint in the sun—a view ordinarily glimpsed only by the fishermen in the boat. To capture that glimpse, he traveled from Nova Scotia to the Cape Verde Islands and observed each fish just as it was plucked from water, before its true colors began to fade.

On Dec. 5, Prosek will give a talk at the Academy about his work and sign copies of his new book. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free for Academy members, $5 for nonmembers. To register, visit

In preparation for his next book, Prosek will become an “artist in residence” in early December and will interview Academy curators about how species are scientifically organized and classified.


For more information, Issue 3, 2012, of Nature Conservancy Magazine features a cover story on James Prosek.

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