Published: February 26, 2019
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
NEW YORK CITY – Two entirely different dogs won best in show in February. As King, a wire fox terrier, was crowned at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden February 12, an English setter and her pups by Edmund Henry Osthaus reigned over Doyle’s Dogs in Art Sale, which went off the block uptown the following day, February 13. The 240-lot sale would produce $517,469 against an estimate of $376,695/592,255, with 87 percent sold by lot and 93 percent sold by value.
King’s handler, Gabriel Rangel, told AP, “I look at King, he’s like a beautiful painting, a piece of art.”
While poetic, that description was more literal for Osthaus’ “The First Lesson – A Setter and Her Six Pups,” a 30-by-40-inch oil on canvas that took $62,000 over a $50,000 high estimate, selling to a phone bidder halfway through the sale. The painting was warmhearted and lacked the tension and sense of discipline on exhibition in many sporting scenes. Here Osthaus painted an intimate moment between a mother English Setter and her pups as she teaches them to alert on a pair of birds, who were, up until this point, enjoying a peaceful perch on the branch of a short bush next to a worn path. Four of the six pups are seen yipping at the birds, in true belief that they had treed them, like a good dog is supposed to do. The focus of the two remaining pups is innocently misdirected, perhaps an acknowledgement that not all dogs were made for that sort of life.
The auction exhibition opened on February 8 with a pet-friendly reception that was co-hosted with ARF (Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc), a nonprofit organization that provides rescued dogs and cats with medical care and sanctuary until homes can be found. More than 100 collectors and their furry friends attended the reception. To support ARF’s mission, visit arfhamptons.org.
The firm’s Dogs in Art sale is a revival, explained Shani Toledano, Doyle’s vice president/associate director of paintings and drawings. “We started this sale 20 or so years ago and it continued for ten or 12 years until 2008.” The sale was renewed with the sporting art collection of James W. Smith at its core and appended with property from various owners as well as works from the collection of Barbara Wainscott.
Smith was a master breeder in smooth fox terriers. He entered his first show in 1956 and was awarded the 2012 Breeder of the Year Award by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Smith would produce more than 50 champions in his career. He was also highly involved with the AKC, serving as a judge and delegate for 26 years and chairman of its board from 1994-95. Smith’s collection of dog, horse and sporting art comprised the first 114 lots of the sale, including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints and books.
Aligned with his interests, Smith’s collection included 22 lots of artworks depicting terriers. Chief among them was Maud Earl’s (British American, 1864-1943) “English Terriers on the Moor,” a 47-7/8-by-22-inch oil on canvas that finished at $15,000. Earl was born into a family of sporting painters and would go on to exhibit at the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon. She learned from her father, George Earl, who was also represented in the sale. Not far behind in value were two works from Arthur Wardle (British, 1864-1949): “Two Wire Haired Fox Terriers in a Wood,” an 18-by-24-inch oil on canvas that sold for $13,750 and a circa 1900 36-by-28-inch oil on canvas titled “Terriers on the Scent,” which brought $10,625.
Within this specialized genre, one cannot help but to see many of the same artists pop up time and time again. Some of these artists were more prolific than others. Much like the portrait business, sporting art was made largely on commission to showcase the prized possessions of the wealthy and to demonstrate their focus on aristocratic activity.
Works by John Emms (British, 1843-1912) dominated the sale in quantity, accounting for 17 lots, with stand-alone dog portraits fetching the highest marks. At the top was “Portrait of a Hound,” a 13-by-19-inch oil on canvas. It sold for $6,875. Following behind was a 14-by-20-inch oil on canvas titled “A Long Haired Terrier,” dated 1900, which tied in value with “Vis-a-vis, Fox Terrier,” a dated 1893 19-7/8-by-26-1/8-inch oil on canvas. Both sold at $5,625.
Almost as prevalent as canines in the sale were equines. The 1893 portrait of the thoroughbred Dobbins by Henry Stull (American, 1851-1913) led this category with a final result of $15,000. Stull paid considerable attention to the way light reflected off the muscles of the large horse and is one of the finest Nineteenth Century American horse painters. Painted two years prior by veterinary surgeon, British painter and sculptor Adrian Jones (1845-1938) was a portrait of the horse Amphion. It caught $12,500.
Joining Stull in the pantheon of great American horse painters is Franklin Brooke Voss (1880-1953), whose only painting in the sale, a 10-1/8-by-14-inch oil on canvasboard dated 1947 of the thoroughbred Hydraulic, would make $9,375 above a $3,000 high estimate. Hydraulic was owned by renowned patron of the arts and thoroughbred breeder Paul Mellon. The painting was executed on Mellon’s 40th birthday. Paul Mellon’s father, Andrew Mellon, is said to have owned the finest collection of art in America in the early Twentieth Century and is responsible for the establishment of the National Gallery Of Art in Washington DC, to which he donated his collection. Paul Mellon followed in his father’s footsteps and established the Yale Center for British Art, as well as acting as a benefactor for the Yale University Art Gallery and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Bronzes represented 34 lots in the sale. Leading the group was Marguerite Kirmse’s (British American, 1885-1954) pair of Scottie bookends cast by Gorham at $5,312. The pair sold to a bidder on the floor. Kirmse’s five lots in the sale all featured Scotties and all went over high estimate. Behind the bookends were two works that tied at $4,375: Isidore Jules Bonheur’s (French, 1827-1901) 13½-inch-high “Pacing Bull” and June Lord Harrah’s (American, 1910-1997) 1980 work “Spectacular Bid, Horse of the Year.”
In greater number were American and European prints, which accounted for 37 lots in the sale, many of the lots included groups of works. Ten color photogravures published by the Berlin Photographic Company, after artwork by Maud Earl, brought the highest of any lot in the category, finishing at $2,812. Two stipple engravings done in 1794 by George Townly Stubbs (1724-1806) and published by Messers Stubbs, Turf Gallery, London, went out at $2,125. Stubbs’ prints individually featured portraits of the horses Dungannon and Anvil.
For those who missed out on the opportunity to see Doyle’s exhibition, dog art is now permanently on exhibit at the AKC’s Museum of the Dog, which opened again in New York City February 8 after a 32-year hiatus in St Louis. It is located at 101 Park Avenue.
For information, 212-427-2730 or www.doyle.com.
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