John White, The manner of their fishing, a watercolour

North America, about AD 1585-93

This is not a scene that White recorded directly from life. Rather he composed or 'invented' it by basing it on several studies. White has inscribed the scene 'The manner of their fishing' and in it has combined three Native methods. By day, they used a dip net and spear, and by night, a fire in a canoe to attract the fish to the boat. They also employed fish weirs, shown on the left, to trap fish.

The fish depicted are some of those to be found between the mainland and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There are two recognizable hammerhead sharks, a cat-fish, burrfish, king crabs, skate or ray and perhaps a sturgeon, although the large fish, like the sharks and sturgeon, would not normally have been found in the shallow waters.. In the sky are a pelican, two swans or geese and a flight of ducks.

White made separate studies of each of the creatures included in this drawing. Rather unscientifically, he introduced a species of West Indian hermit crab into the waters of North Carolina.

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More information


P. Hulton and D.B. Quinn (eds), The American drawings of John (University of North Carolina Press and London, The British Museum Press, 1964)

M. Jacobs, The painted voyage: art, trave (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

P. Hulton, America 1585: the complete dra (London, The British Museum Press and University of North Carolina Press, 1985)


Height: 352.000 mm
Width: 235.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1906-5-9-1(6)



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