Looking Back: Rochester-Finger Lakes Fish Story

Looking Back: Rochester-Finger Lakes “Fish Story”

Isabel Herdle judging the Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition in the 1950s


fish painting by leon salter aka zoute
“I never thought a dead fish would cause so much trouble,” said long-time MAG curator Isabel C. Herdle. The year was 1945, and the fish in question was really a painting by Leon Salter (known as Zouté). When it received the Jurors’ Award at that year’s Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition, it touched off a furor rarely equaled in Gallery history. “Every time I think of the fish in the Memorial Art Gallery,” wrote one irate citizen to the newspaper,” I dread the coming of Friday.” Emotions ran so high—and so many people flocked see the avant-garde shocker— that city policemen were called in to supplement the Gallery’s security staff. Unperturbed, MAG officials purchased the work (shown at left) for the Gallery’s collection.

Above: Isabel Herdle surveys entries to the 1950 Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition.