George Earl belonged to a family of artists who specialised in animal subjects. He exhibited at the Royal Academy 1857-1883 and also supported the British Institution and the Society of British Artists. Possibly a man of means, he owned two houses: 76 Newman Street in Bloomsbury - the Bohemian quarter of London in the mid-nineteenth century - and Burgh House, Banstead, in Surrey.
While the artist's oeuvre includes masterpieces such as the lost Going North, King's Cross Station and Perth Station, going South (his own versions of which were sold in these Rooms for a total of (£72,000 on 22 June 1990, and now hang in the National Railway Museum, York), it is probably for his dog portraits that Earl is best known. Normally favouring a simple 'head and shoulders' in a roundel or oval format, he also painted upright screen-like panels such as the present example, usually with a similarly sporting theme. This format was in turn taken up by his daughter, Maud, who found her own degree of success, exhibiting at the Royal Academy 1884-1914 and then establishing a studio on Fifth Avenue in New York.
William Arkwright of Hampton Court (1857-1925), the original owner of the work, was left a large number of pointers by his father. Elected to the committee of the Kennel Club in 1878, Arkwright went on to write the seminal work The Pointer and His Predecessors: An illustrated history of the pointing dog from the earliest times, published in 1902 and featuring several other of George Earl's portraits of pointers.
Although none of the dogs depicted on this screen in fact belonged to Arkwright, each was a champion and each is awarded an honourable mention in his book. Drake is described as 'famous at field trials', particularly notable for his celerity and agility of turn. Hamlet was 'a dog equally remarkable in field or at stud' and, in spite of being badly shot in unclear circumstances, went on to win further competitions. Bang, however, is the star of the group: it is claimed of him that 'all the best pointers in the south of England are sprung from champion Bang'.