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Fish Decoy

Fish Decoy
Artist
Unidentified
Date
20th century
Type
Sculpture
Folk Art
Medium
carved, incised, pyroengraved, and stained wood; galvanized iron sheet; ferrous eye hook; lead weight; and glass eye
Dimensions
1 3/4 x 6 3/4 x 1 7/8 in. (4.3 x 17.3 x 4.8 cm)
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Alastair B. Martin
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
1999.67.9
Luce Center Label
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).
Data Source
Smithsonian American Art Museum
See more items in
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department
Painting and Sculpture
On View
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 28A
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor