Shootin’ the Sun, CR #: 0568

Shootin’ The Sun 132 West x 42 North, CR #: 0998

Shootin’ The Sun, 132 West x 42 North, watercolor, December, 1928; and oil on canvas, ca. 1965.

In 1928, after finishing art school in Boston, James Fitzgerald shipped out on freighter for the West Coast.  His plan to go commercial fishing in Alaska was dashed off the California coast, north of San Francisco, where this watercolor was made, probably onboard ship. Instead he headed back to the Bay Area and settled south of there in Monterey, where there was then a burgeoning community of fishermen, artists, and tourists – just like Monhegan where Fitzgerald later became a permanent resident just before the Second World War.

As was his practice, Fitzgerald later reworked this early composition in another, more finished watercolor around 1940 and then into oil painting around 1965. All of these works, although based on the artist’s direct observation of the scene, relate to one of Winslow Homer’s best- known works, called Eight Bells from 1886, which Fitzgerald could have seen at the Addison Gallery near Boston after it was acquired in 1931. In these works, oilskin-clad sailors with anonymous faces, are shown from the back, taking a celestial sighting with a sextant, against a background of a cloud-filled sky and the rail of the ship. Like many of Fitzgerald’s works they speak to man’s ability to navigate the forces of the sea.