John Emms (British, 1841-1912)
Property from the Estate of Arthur H. Bryant II
John Emms (British, 1841-1912)

The New Forest Buckhounds

Details
John Emms (British, 1841-1912)
The New Forest Buckhounds
signed and dated 'Jno EMMS 1899' (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 ¼ x 60 1/8 in. (92.1 x 152.7 cm.)
Provenance
Margo Couzens Bryant (1911-1976), Warrenton, VA, acquired circa 1940.
Arthur H. Bryant II (1942-2016), Charlottesville, VA, her son, by descent.

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Born in Norfolk, the son of artist Henry William Emms, as a young man John Emms worked as a studio assistant to Lord Leighton. In the early 1860s, while Leighton was working on the fresco of The Wise and Foolish Virgins for St. Michael and All Angels Church in Lyndhurst, Emms – who is believed to have contributed the owl below the outstretched arms of the angel to right of center – traveled with the great Pre-Raphaelite painter. This first visit to Hampshire would set the artist on the course that would ultimately define the rest of his career. By 1872 he returned to Lyndhurst part-time while maintaining a studio in London and settled there permanently around 1881. Apart from the great natural beauty of this area of the New Forest, Lyndhurst also offered all manner of different types of hunting - pursuits very close to the artist's heart. A good horseman, avid huntsman and convivial guest, Emms soon found himself in high demand for the horse, hound and dog portraits he painted for members of the peerage and landed gentry throughout the British Isles.
Emms particularly specialized in paintings of hounds at kennels and hunts in Hampshire, and the New Forest Hounds, perhaps the area’s most well-known pack, were a frequent subject for the artist. The history of hunting in the New Forest goes back to 1089 when William the Conqueror established it as a Royal Hunting Forest, and continues – now through trail hunting – to the present day. The present portrait was painted in 1899 when Emms was at the peak of his career, and is distinct from Emms’s more common depiction of the hounds, which he more often painted in their kennel or in the midst of the hunt. Both the large-scale and more formal atmosphere, showing the dogs and their kennel masters posing together with the New Forest as their background, set the present painting off from Emms’s other paintings of the hounds. The large dogs shown were used to hunt fallow bucks in the New Forest, and the pairs of dogs in the present work with their collars linked together were ‘tufters,’ the pack’s most experienced hounds who were used to separate the harbored stag from the rest of the herd before the main pack was brought out and laid on its scent.
Emms was at his very best when he was painting dogs. His confident and fluid brushwork gives weight and solidity to the pack, capturing both their individualized markings and temperaments in a manner which expresses the artist’s sensitive understanding of his subject-matter. Indeed, the individual hounds seem to engage with the viewer from all angles with their own individualized expressions. Family history relates how Emms would walk to the kennel every day and return to his studio with each hound one by one as he undertook preliminary sketches for his compositions. While the dogs are relaxed, their expressions are still alert, and the two kennel masters at upper right are directing their attention at something just behind the plane of the viewer. This detail contrasts with the more formal aspects of the portrait, and imbues the painting a kinetic energy created by the sense that the viewer has caught the scene at the moment just before the hounds and kennel masters are about to spring to action.

More from European Art

View All
View All