Do You Sea What I Sea?


Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego marine biologist Jeff Graham recently paid honor to Richard Rosenblatt, his mentor, curator emeritus of the Marine Vertebrate Collection at Scripps, by painting his portrait.

“Dick was my mentor and major professor for my Ph.D,” said Graham. “It’s because of him that I have my career.”

The larger-than-life oil painting portrays Rosenblatt surrounded by a collage of nearly 100 species of fish, many of which were studied by Rosenblatt over his long and distinguished career.

From the biggest fish in the sea, a whale shark, to yellowfin tuna, deep-sea anglerfish, puffer fish, eels, stingrays, and barracuda – if it has gills and a backbone, Graham probably tried to include it in the painting.

The colorful work of art also includes some of the fish anatomy Rosenblatt would lecture about in his classes, such as nerve cords, gills, a gas bladder, and a vertebral bone.

Graham says he was artistic from childhood, but really picked up painting about 10 years ago when he started painting portraits of his grandchildren. This piece took Graham about a year to complete, and he surprised Rosenblatt with the portrait in February 2008 as a belated birthday gift.

“I was flattered,” said Rosenblatt. “It was a labor of love.”

The framed portrait now hangs in the entry hall of the Marine Vertebrate Collection at Scripps.

“I hope this will hang here for 500 years,” said Graham. “The collections are very important to the institution, and their greatness is the result of more than 30 years of hard work by Dick.”

--Shannon Casey

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