Dogs At Stansted Mountfitchet
Specialist sales of dog art, both in the U.K. and the States, are long gone. But every once in a while an auction house does manage to offer a selection that in some small way is reminiscent of the Bonhams sales of old with a good mix of lots.
One recent offering was by Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchet, which fielded some 90 dog-related lots in their “Sporting Art, Wildlife and Dogs” sale. These were more in the affordable bracket, with no standout pieces and estimates that ranged from £100 for a pair of Léon Danchin lithographs of gundogs to £5,000 for an oil by Arthur Wardle.
The Wardle featured a Sealyham sitting on a hearth rug in front of a fire burning in an inglenook fireplace, the intense look in the dog’s eyes being unmistakeably Wardle. It sold just above estimate for £5,500.
For breed historians, the most interesting picture was an oil of two black Newfoundlands on a beach with a yacht sailing in the distance by the German painter of animals Richard Strebel, which he painted in 1899 and which sold within estimate at £850. The dogs are “Baldur” and “Herta,” who helped establish the breed in Germany. They were bred and owned by Professor Waszily of the “Von der Ostsee” kennel, a founding member of the German Newfoundland Club. Strebel produced a similar painting depicting the three colors of Newfoundlands playing on a beach for the German Newfoundland Club. One of his major undertakings was an illustrated two-volume work titled “The German Dogs and their Ancestry” (1903-5).
Sworders offered a number of lots by artists working today. One such was Frederick J. Haycock, arguably one of the modern masters at depicting Foxhounds. His oil of two and a half couples in full cry, two clearing a hedge, displayed the realism that he always gives to the subject. It realized its top estimate of £1,200.
Haycock studied art at colleges in the Midlands before working as an illustrator. He was well into his 30s before he began painting professionally. His originals now hang in collections in Europe, Japan and the U.S.
When the “Shooting Times” declared John Trickett as the “finest Labrador painter in England, if not the world,” they were echoing the thoughts of many before and many since, and it was with a Labrador painting that he won the silver medal in the International Animal Painters competition in France. His Labradors also featured on the limited-edition plates produced by the Franklin Mint of America in 1996.
He had no formal art training, instead training as an accountant, but an offer to play professional football diverted him away from accountancy before he devoted his time to painting. He was one of the contemporary artists whose work was included in Sworders sale, and no surprise that one of the paintings was a classic Trickett Labrador study of two recumbent blacks that found a new home for £800.
Along with Henry Crowther, Marjorie Cox and a few others, Frances Mabel Hollams was one of a group of minor artists painting portraits of dogs in the early/middle years of the 20th Century in Britain. Annoyingly for breed historians, unlike Crowther, Hollams always titled her work just with the subject’s pet name, as is the case with her painting of the Shih Tzu “Bumble.” Even without a full attribution, there was sufficient historical interest to push it to an above-estimate £600.
Painted in 1957, the dog is similar to Ch. Wang Poo of Taishan, Best of Breed at Crufts in 1956, and the dogs bred by Lady Brownrigg, who was the type of client Mabel Hollams attracted.
Samuel John Carter was the son of a gamekeeper who established himself as a painter of animals, wildlife and hunting scenes. He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and between 1867 to 1889 was principal animal illustrator for the “Illustrated London News.” He is also remembered as being the father of Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922.
His painting of a Deerhound and dead stag in a highland landscape has all the drama and majesty people at the time expected from paintings of the Scottish Highlands, so popular then but not to everyone’s taste today. It crept above its lower estimate to sell for £750.
Coursing has been a popular subject for sporting artists for some 200 years and more, but to have a picture of coursing in the English countryside with Salukis is a great rarity. No 20th-Century sporting artist understood the subject better than Michael Lyne, and anyone who has attended a meet will be totally at one with the scene as it unfolds. Two Salukis are about to turn the hare, the mounted judge close up and the foot-followers in the distance, all played out in an open, undulating landscape. No surprise that it reached its top estimate of £1,200.
As a boy Lyne became interested in animals, sport and all aspects of rural life, and while studying art at Cheltenham Art School sold a number of his works through a local art dealer’s shop. They attracted attention from Masters of local hunts, which lead on to him receiving commissions from “the good and the great” in the hunting and sporting fraternity. He went on to illustrate more than 30 books on sport, some of which he wrote himself, and had 11 one-man exhibitions in London.
There were four German Shepherd Dog bronzes by the French animalier Louis Riche in the sale. The most interesting and commercially pleasing, which sold for £300, featured two dogs, one sitting, the other recumbent on an oval naturalistic base. The group was one of a pair, the other the same two dogs in a virtually identical pose facing the opposite way.
Personal engravings on silver are often not good news when it comes to prices received at auction, but dog collars are one exception. Sworders offered an unusual Victorian one with a reeded rim to either side. It was inscribed “Agnes Fowler Butler / Penderford Hall.” The hall passed down through the family throughout almost five centuries, the majority of the men going into military service, but was completely demolished in 1963. There is still a strong market for interesting dog collars, and this one went above its top estimate, selling for £500.