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Ocean Fishes by James Prosek

Ocean Fishes

Foreword by Peter Matthiessen essays by Robert M. Peck (Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia) and Christopher Riopelle (The National Gallery, London) Rizzoli Publishers

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Read a review of the book by The Art Blog

Watch the trailer/documentary of the book, Picture the Leviathan, below.

In the tradition of his acclaimed Trout: An Illustrated History, renowned naturalist, artist, and fisherman James Prosek captures 35 of the most pursued fish—from striped bass to tarpon, swordfish to bonefish—as well as many creatures that share these marine ecosystems—from lobsters to shells to beach plants—through rich watercolors painted specifically for this handsome volume.

Ocean Fishes is James Prosek’s personal tribute to marine beauty unlike any published before—based on travel, intense observation, work with scientists, and stories of those who know the fish most intimately, the fishermen (both recreational and commercial). It is also the author’s quiet conservation statement. In showing the beauty and monumentality of these fish, Prosek is urging us to preserve what we have before it is lost. These paintings give the reader a privileged view of a fish fresh from the ocean when its changing colors first glint in the sun—a view ordinarily glimpsed only by the fishermen on the boat.

This book is not intended as a scientific catalogue of ocean fishes. each painting reflects Prosek’s individual experience with a single fish—the artist traveled the Atlantic from Nova Scotia to the Cape Verde Islands to see each species firsthand as it came out of the water before it lost its living colors. The original paintings are all life-size portraits (from a 14-inch porgy to a 12-foot, 8-inch blue marlin) and will be exhibited at several venues from Monaco to Philadelphia. Details from these original works are reproduced at full-size in the book to give a sense of scale.

This book is a must-have for saltwater anglers, professional fishermen, conservationists, art lovers, beachcombers, and anyone who is passionate about the beauty of the beach and coastline and the mysteries swimming off of its shores.


Peter Matthiessen is a two-time national Book award– winning author—for The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country. His work, Blue Meridian, is thought to have inspired Peter Benchley to write Jaws in 1974. His 1988 book Men’s Lives is an eloquent portrayal of the disappearing way of life of the Long island fisherman. He lives in Sagaponack, New York.

Robert M. Peck is Curator of Art and Artifacts and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, as well as a writer, naturalist, and historian who has traveled extensively worldwide.

Christopher Riopelle is the curator of Post-1800 Paintings at The National Gallery, London. he has held curatorial positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, and has curated exhibitions on Renoir, Rodin and Michelangelo, Portraits by Ingres, and Richard Hamilton, among others.

Trailer & Documentary of
Making Picture the Leviathan:



Read Water Colors: Making a fine Art of Ocean Conservation in Nature Conservation


Using the tools of his trade, artist James Prosek does more than capture the wild beauty of Atlantic fish—he paints a compelling case for protecting them.



Read the digital edition.
Visit the Water Colors website.

articles & Essays

A Botanist in Lapland
New York Times - May 21, 2017

DueSouth: Travel and Adventure for the Southern Soul
Garden and Gun - October/November 2012

Thanksgiving Eel
New York Times, OP-ED, November 25, 2010

National Geographic Magazine, September 2010
(or download in PDF format)

Maori Eels
Orion, July | August 2010
(or download in PDF format)

National Geographic Magazine, January 2010

The Failure of Names
Orion, March | April 2008
(or download in PDF format)

Read James's articles in the New York Times

Fishing The Ancient Headwaters
Between swimming past land mines in Bosnian streams and dodging the Turkish military, it wasn't your average fishing trip
By James Prosek appearing in Audubon Magazine
January/February, 1999


Previous Books

Bird, Butterfly, Eel by James ProsekTrout of the World: Revised and Updated
Paintings and Text by James Prosek
Abrams Publishers

In this new, updated edition of Trout of the World, fans of James Prosek's unique painting talent will relish in the addition of more than 25 new paintings and a newly penned preface. More

Eels by James ProsekEels
An Exploration, From New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish
Harper (2010)

They are the only fish that spawn in the middle of the ocean but spend their adult lives in freshwater. They can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and even cross over land. More


Bird, Butterfly, Eel by James ProsekEels
An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish

Tsukiji-Shokan Publishing

Eels book released in Japan, summer 2016

Read the Review in Asahi Newspaper



Bird, Butterfly, Eel by James ProsekBird, Butterfly, Eel
Simon & Schuster (2009)

Bird, Butterfly, and Eel, spend their summers on the same coastal farm, but in the fall they go to very distant and different places. Their journeys to the far reaches of land and sea make them remarkable creatures. More

The Day My Mother Left by James ProsekThe Day My Mother Left
Simon & Schuster (2007)

Jeremy's whole life changed the day his mother left. When his mother leaves with the father of his worst enemy at school, nine year old Jeremy seeks to make sense of her abandonment. More


Tight Lines by James ProsekTight Lines: Ten Years of the Yale
Anglers' Journal

Founded in 1996 by undergraduates James Prosek and Joe Furia, the Yale Anglers' Journal plays the heartstrings. Its widely varied contents - poetry, essays, letters, humor and adventure narrative - seem to encompass the breadth and depth of human experience. More

A Good Day's Fishing by James ProsekA Good Day's Fishing
Simon & Schuster (2004)

What's the secret to a good day's fishing? James Prosek illustrates the essentials, in his first children's picture book. The flies, lures, spinners and bobbers in his tackle box are depicted in colorful watercolors and defined in the helpful "Lure and Fly Glossary" located in the final five pages of the book. More

Trout of the World by James ProsekTrout of the World
Stewart Tabori & Chang (2003)

From the rare Tigris Trout of Eastern Turkey to the Cutthroat Trout of the Russian Sea of Okhotsk, James Prosek brings to life 100 trout from around the world. Trout of the World is the product of six years of travel and research around the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North Africa. More

Fly-Fishing the 41st From Connecticut
to Mongolia and Home Again:
A Fisherman's Odyssey

Harper Collins (2003)

James Prosek begins Fly-Fishing the 41st with, "One day, I left in a straight line from home at 41 Kachele Street, east along the 41st Parallel, following my passion for fish. It was a journey not only away from home, but toward it; which is the beauty of traveling in a circle, and the irony of adventure." More

Early Love and Brook Trout by James ProsekEarly Love and Brook Trout
Lyon's Press (2000)

This poignant and revealing memoir, includes brilliant images and watercolor paintings of spawning brook trout from Quebec to Georgia, fishing with his best friend, Taylor; his relationship with young love, Whitney; his rowing days at Yale; his relationship to old game warden, Joe Haines; and a night spent trapped in a cabin during a flood at the foot of the Smoky Mountains. More

A Connecticut Yankee Follows in the Footsteps of Walton: The Complete Angler by James ProsekA Connecticut Yankee Follows in the Footsteps of Walton: The Complete Angler
Harper Collins (1999)

As a senior at Yale, James Prosek won a traveling fellowship to follow in the footsteps of Izaak Walton, the seventeenth century author of The Compleat Angler. The book became his obsession and along Prosek's pilgrimage through England, he made friends and fished the waters Walton had fished over three centuries ago. More

Joe and Me by James ProsekJoe and Me: An Education in
Fishing and Friendship

Harper Collins (1997)

When James Prosek was fourteen, a ranger named Joe Haines caught him "poaching" from a reservoir nearby Prosek's home in Easton, Connecticut. Instead of running from the old man in the green uniform, Prosek surrendered only to find himself a new friend and mentor. More

Trout: An Illustrated History by James ProsekTrout: An Illustrated History
Knopf (1996)

James Prosek's first book catalogues more than 70 native trout from North America in brilliant watercolor paintings. More