Out for the Day, The Fly Fishers signed, inscribed and dated 'Nicol. A.R.S.A/57.' (lower left) oil on canvas 88.5 x 59.5 cm. (34 3/4 x 23 1/2 in.)
PROVENANCE: with Mitchell Galleries, London, where purchased by the family of the present owner Thence by descent
Born in Leith in 1825 and educated at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh, Nicol first came to Ireland in 1846 on a four year teaching residency based in Dublin. He had previously been employed as drawing master at Leith High School. This sojourn in Ireland was hugely influential on Nicol and his art. Rural Irish communities, their people and their traditions became lifelong subjects, which he frequently invested with humour. While his landscape paintings display an intimate knowledge of the country, his portraits of peasants often display a deep affection and insight into the character of its people. Out for the Day, The Fly Fishers demonstrates both these capacities expertly. Nicol returned to Scotland in 1850 and in 1862 moved to London, however made yearly trips to Ireland in order to paint. Nicol exhibited prolifically during his lifetime, submitting 172 works to the R.S.A., the institution to which he was elected in 1859, just a few years after the present work, and in 1868 he was made A.R.A.
The peasant figure in the present work, with the top hat and worn out elbows on his jacket, can also be found in the smaller canvas Salmon Fishing which sold at auction for £48,000 in 2007, the second highest price realised for the artist. This somewhat dishevelled fisherman would appear to be poaching - a subject that held much poignancy after the great famine of 1845-52. Out for the Day, The Fly Fishers is in every way an important early work in the career of this much loved artist, whose work is intimately tied with the life and culture of Victorian Ireland.