Fly Fishing

Robert Robinson (American, 1886–1952)
Fly Fishing, 1933
oil on canvas

Robert Robinson’s Fly Fishing was featured on the May 1933 cover of Motor magazine. In the spirit of the spring season, a mechanic is eager to exchange his oil-stained gloves for a fly rod and some time on the water. He seizes the moment when he is called out to tow a car that has broken down by a bridge in the countryside. Leaving his rig unattended by the side of the road, he heads down to the river. The mechanic’s scheme is interrupted by a passing police officer who calls to him from above, attempting to draw his attention back to the unfinished task.

On trend with early-twentieth-century American art, Fly Fishing illustrates an empathetic scene of working-class America. At the height of the Great Depression, the image of a mechanic longing to reconnect with the natural world would have resonated with viewers from all socioeconomic classes as the country became more reliant on machinery and nostalgic for nature’s simple pleasures. Robinson emphasizes these frustrations in his painting with allegory that plays on the contrast between the industrial and natural. Tucked into his scene, Robinson paints a beautiful and lively landscape in the distance; however, the full breadth of its brilliance is hidden by the concrete arch of the overhead bridge. Looking deeper, a nod to Izaak Walton can be found in the name of mechanic’s garage, displayed on the side of his truck and the back of his coveralls.

Robert Robinson illustrated covers of Motor magazine from the mid-1920s to the late 1940s. He also produced many memorable illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post.