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Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., R.I.  1802 – 1873
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Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., R.I. 1802 – 1873

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A greyhound with a hare

 

Oil painting on canvas 17 x 21 ¼ in. (43.3 x 53.8cm.) and contained in a period carved and giltwood “Morland” frame

 

Signed with initials and dated lower right: E L 1817

 

Provenance Sedley Taylor (by descent from his parents who may have commissioned the work)
S. Redgrave (probably Samuel Redgrave, brother of the artist Richard Redgrave, who published a popular Dictionary of British Artists); sale: Christie's, London, 23rd March 1877, lot 334 (bought by Smith for £95.11))
The late Mrs Melville Russell Cooke

Exhibited London, Royal Academy, Landseer Memorial Exhibition, Winter 1874, no. 454 (lent by Sedley Taylor)

Literature Algernon Graves, A Catalogue of the Works of the late Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., London, 1874, p. 5
A. Graves, A century of loan exhibitions, 1813-1912, London, 1913, vol. I, p. 636
A. Graves, Art Sales from early in the 18th century to early in the 20th century - mostly old master and early English pictures, London, 1918-21, p. 111

We are grateful to Richard Ormond for confirming the attribution to Landseer.

The present work is an exciting rediscovery and addition to Landseer’s early oeuvre, dating from the formative years of his career when he conquered London society as a youthful prodigy. Landseer would have been 15 years old when the present work was painted, two years after he first exhibited at the Royal Academy (fig. 1). At this point he was being lauded as the most precocious talent since Lawrence, generating a mixture of jealousy and admiration from his fellow artists; Constable was reputed to despise him, whilst Turner’s response was to admire him. His earliest artistic endeavours were supported by his father John Landseer A.R.A, an engraver, but perhaps the decisive influence on Landseer at this stage was B.R. Haydon, who first encouraged Landseer to study anatomy. Despite being a mediocre talent himself, Haydon was an energetic promoter of ‘high art’, and the experience was probably instrumental in raising Landseer aspiration’s towards the historical grand style of Reynolds. In 1816 he enrolled at the Royal Academy schools where he remained for three years, during which time the present work was painted.
It is evident that Landseer was busy developing his practice whilst still a student because he proudly announced in 1821that he had earned more than a thousand pounds, enabling him to move out of the parental home to 1 St. John’s Wood Road. This work must have been one of his earliest commissions, and the letter on the back suggests that the artist J. C. Horsely may have been involved in the process. This work is fascinating in that it illustrates the romantic origins of Landseer’s art; both the violent subject and the course brushwork suggest that the work of James Ward was the major influence on the young artist. Certainly the paint handling of the present work relates more closely to the work of 18th century Romantics such as Ward and George Moreland, and contrasts with the high Victorian finish of his later work. His prowess at describing fur is already evident in the bristling coat of the greyhound, and this flawless knowledge of surface textures was a constant in Landseer’s work, placing him among the first rank of animal painters.


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