A Selection of Seven
The Earl dynasty, in particular brothers Thomas William, and George and George’s daughter Maud, played an integral role in the development of canine art in the second half of the 19th Century. This coincided with the formation of the Kennel Club and the development of so many breeds.
The most famous and successful of the three was Maud. She portrayed just what her patrons hope for and expected to see, albeit with a degree of artist’s license, while capturing the essence of the individual breeds.
There are those who consider that Thomas William excelled at composition, and certainly the picture titled “Jealousy” that Parker Fine Arts recently sold for a mid-estimate £1,400 exemplifies just that. With a glass of port in his left hand, this huntsman rests in reflective mood at the end of the day, gently stroking the ear of a favorite hound that looks lovingly up at him. By their side a second hound looks up as if to say, “Don’t forget me.”
An exhibition of the art of the Earls is currently running at the Kennel Club in London, curated by Catherine Owen, regarded as the leading authority on this artistic family.
The Earls were painting during the sentimental age of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Another artist to have capitalized on the demand for sentimental pictures was Philip Eustace Stretton. The mournful expression all his subjects have would have appealed to the market. In a classic Stretton picture Parkers sold for a just below estimate £180, a Terrier lies on a huntsman’s scarlet coat draped over a chair with a hound resting its head alongside.
The Victorian and Edwardian eras were also the golden years for British provincial artists, who rarely signed their work, some of whom being highly accomplished in their own right. Many would travel from village to village, particularly in the summer months when travelling was easier, picking up work as they went. They produced affordable art of popular subjects for the emerging prosperous classes who were still not able to afford work by royal academicians and their ilk.
Known collectively in the auction house world as “English School,” two such pictures were sold by Bamfords recently. The first was a typical 19th-Century pet portrait of a white spitz-type dog that was undoubtedly someone’s much treasured pet. With the dog’s alert, appealing expression, it is the sort of decorative picture that appeals to the market today just as much as it would have done in the 19th Century. It sold at the top of its estimate for £200.
George Stubbs’ painting of a Spanish Pointer that has a provenance to T. Bradford in 1768 and the King of Bavaria in 1810 is one of the most frequently copied of all Stubbs paintings. Painted in 1768 in the Romanticism style, it shows the dog in an extensive landscape with trees to each side and hills in the distance.
As well as being one of the most frequently copied of Stubbs paintings, it was also published in prints, so would have been familiar to many. The composition of the painting influenced many artists working in the 19th Century when they came to painting Pointers.
The second English School painting sold by Bamfords featured a brown and white Pointer on point in an extensive landscape with trees to each side and hills in the distance; it sold way above estimate for £1,900. Whoever the artist was, he or she was obviously familiar with Stubbs’ picture.
William Woodhouse was one of the leading late Victorian/Edwardian sporting painters who specialized in painting game dogs and game, a subject for which, at the time, there was a great demand. Many of these paintings focused on the end of the day with contented dogs at rest beside gamebirds shot that day.
Tennants in their latest British, European and Sporting Pictures sale sold a classic Woodhouse showing a Gordon Setter and English Setter in an interior with a brace of birds beside them. It sold for double its expected price range for £9,200.
Also sold by Tennants was a composite portrait of five Bulldogs all brought together against a backdrop of parkland with Roundhay Park, Leeds, in the distance, once the home of Leeds Championship Dog Show. It was painted in 1915 by the little-known artist E.S. England, who specialized in dogs, and estimated to sell for £400-600. Pictures by England usually sell within the three-figure range, but for such a historically interesting picture for Bulldog enthusiasts, not surprisingly it went many times over estimate, finding a new home for £2,800.
A later extensive inscription on the back of the canvas notes the dogs are Markham Minor; Markham Monarch, multiple first prize winner; Ch. Markham Tommy, a BIS winner in America, becoming a champion in the States in 1912; Markham Supreme, a winner in both Britain and America, and Hollywell British, described as “Conqueror of 14 Champions, Chicago.”
One of the most important dog-related pictures to be offered at auction in the U.K. this year is Richard Ansdell’s “Going to the Lodge – Scotch Shootings,” which he painted in 1860 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1861.
Ansdell had a lifelong love affair with the Scottish Highlands. For four months every year, he would visit the Highlands, where he happily mixed with the local people, sensitively recording their daily lives in oils on canvas, together with their animals amid the dramatic Scottish landscape. He built a loch-side lodge that he shared with his large family and artist friends.
As is usual with Ansdell’s paintings, the dogs are center stage. We see a distant shooting lodge at the foothills of what is believed to be the Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye. The gentleman and his lady who will be staying at the lodge are riding toward its shelter before the coming storm arrives. The ghillie and his boy are making slow progress over the rough terrain accompanied by two sure-footed Highland ponies loaded up with all the paraphernalia needed for a sporting break in this remote part.
The two distant figures on ponies are the gamekeeper and a girl who will be the maid at the lodge, carrying out all the housekeeping and catering duties. The dogs are four Setters, two Pointers, a Flat-Coated Retriever and a Terrier, the latter probably the pet of the Ansdell family who appeared in many of his paintings. It sold just within estimate for £40,000.