Jim Dine – Ancient Fishing

Jim Dine

(American, b. 1935)

Ancient Fishing

Bronze with patina and pigment
76 x 62 x 70 in.
Chazen Museum of Art; Gift of the artist, 2014.7.65

Jim Dine’s Ancient Fishing feels ominous. The haunting, hollow eyes of the huge skull stare blankly at its viewer. Various cracks cross the skull, giving it a fractured appearance. Originally carved out of cottonwood, the sculpture was cast into bronze with a patina applied to mirror its former materials. Ancient Fishing is comprised of a large skull propped upright by a pallet and several planks that resemble wood. The skull and accompanying pieces have coarse surfaces and show striations from their initial carving. Near the bottom of the pallet, a hammer leans against one of its supports and acts as another reminder of the hand construction process. This sculpture is part of a larger donation of 68 skull-themed artworks gifted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art by the artist. The skull element from Ancient Fishing appears in other works by Dine. The original wooden skull used to make the Ancient Fishing casting was repurposed later for his 1997 sculpture The Plow, also in the Chazen Museum of Art’s collection. Additional metal castings of this skull are used in still other sculptures by the artist.

Internationally renowned artist Jim Dine works in several art forms including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, illustration, performance, and poetry. Using different materials and methods, Dine frequently reiterates and reinvents the same subjects and themes. Common and domestic items including toothbrushes, shoes, hammers, and saws reoccur, in addition to broader symbols such as skulls and hearts. Given his appropriation of everyday goods and popular cultural symbols, Dine is often closely associated with the Pop Art movement. Yet, he diverges from this tradition in that his artwork is generally more expressive and personal. He has regularly visited Wisconsin as an artist-in-residence at UW–Madison’s Tandem Press, a fine art printmaking studio. Since Dine’s first individual exhibition in 1960, he has been featured in nearly 300 solo shows worldwide.


Ancient Fishing is located outside the main entrance of the Chazen Museum of Art (750 University Avenue) along East Campus Mall.


“Chazen Museum of Art Receives Gift of 67 Jim Dine Artworks.” UW-Madison News, May 14, 2014.

“Jim Dine’s Skull-Themed Art Makes a Bold Statement at the Chazen Museum.” Isthmus, May 22, 2014.

Beal, Graham W. J. Jim Dine:  Five Themes. Minneapolis:  Walker Art Center, 1984.

Gordon, John. Jim Dine. New York:  Whitney Museum of American Art, 1970.

Ancient Fishing