Probably London, Royal Academy, 1893, no.100
Wardle was arguably the greatest animal painter of his generation. Stealth
, featuring two leopards, is exemplary of his inimitable ability to render the sleek contours and gleaming skins of big cats hunting in the wild. It is one of a number of paintings of exotic animals begun in 1891 when Wardle exhibited Panthers Resting
at the Royal Academy. From this point on he produced many paintings of leopards hunting; Leopards on the Lookout
(Sotheby’s, New York, 9 May 2013, lot 45) which similarly portrays two leopards stealthily perched on a mountainside staring intently at their prey, their glinting eyes and crouched forms highlight the threat they pose to their prey. Likewise, Indian Leopards
(offered Sotheby’s, London, 22 May 2014, lot 234), depicts two leopards hunting game; the recurring motif of the leopard pair serves to illustrate Wardle’s mastery of the wild cat in every angle whilst also establishing a dialogue between the hunters.
Stealth is one of the artist’s most elaborate and cohesive renderings of leopards hunting in pairs. In addition to the exquisitely detailed leopard skins, Wardle has skilfully reflected the drama of the scene in the dense greys and blues of a stormy sky that weigh down the atmosphere. The rock they stand on is mottled through with the same orange, yellow and hints of blue as their pelts.