Monday, May 30, 2011

Richard Ansdell - Gathering the Flock

signed and dated l.r.: R. Ansdell/1870
oil on canvas
79.5 by 203cm., 31¼ by 80in.

Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 79,250 GBP

Thomas Agnew, London by whom sold, Christie's, 16 June 1906, lot 66, bought 'Lister';
Dunecht House, Aberdeenshire

Ansdell was the finest Victorian animal painter after Sir Edwin Landseer but unlike Landseer, who often painted violent melodrama, Ansdell's approach to the depiction of animals was to the more incidental aspects of everyday life. Even before Landseer's death, Ansdell's great talent was heartily recognised by collectors and the critics alike, the Art Journal writing in 1860; 'That picturesquely, and that his productions are among the best of their kind with our school –and indeed, any other –has brought forward, is to pay him and them no higher compliment than is
merited. If we had no Landseer, Ansdell would, unquestionably, occupy the very foremost place in this department
of art' (The Art Journal, 1860, p.223).

The hardy highland shepherd and his loyal border collie, herding flocks to new pasture, is the subject most associated with Ansdell. The wilderness and beauty of the Scottish landscape, combined with his animated study of animals and human figures, make Ansdell's work so immediately engaging. He painted several variants on the same theme of a flock being taken to safer ground or more fertile pasture. The first of this series of pictures Turning the Drove, Aviemore and the Grampians in the Distance (private collection) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1851 and the International Exhibition in Paris in 1855, where it was awarded a gold medal. The second painting in the series Crossing the Moor (Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, Ashton bequest) painted in 1863 and exhibited that year at the British Institution, was described by the Art Journal as 'sheep, heather, dogs and Scotch
shepherd, all vigorous even to violence' (ibid. pg.223). The third painting Crossing the Burn of 1863 (Sotheby's, 27 August 2003, lot 1179) was a variant in the series and in 1866 Ansdell painted another less-animated example. A similar subject of Sheep Gathering, Glen Spey dated 1871 and almost the same size as the present picture (35.5 by 77.5 in.) was in the collection of Josiah Radclyffe until the 1890s and another example with the same title is known (Sotheby's Gleneagles, 31 August 2005, lot 1038).

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