- John Emms
- Hounds at Rest
- signed J EMMS (lower left); indistinctly inscribed Nathan and Gambler (top center edge)
- oil on canvas
Gordon Barton, The Sporting Gallery, MIddelburg, Virginia
Acquired from the above (circa 1940-1950)
The Norfolk born John Emms exhibited his first picture at the Royal Academy in 1866, but it was not until 1872, when he assisted Frederic, Lord Leighton in the painting of the Ten Virgins fresco at Lyndurst parish church, that he was exposed to the hunting fraternity that was to shape the course of his career. Emms would soon abandon his early, highly finished academic technique for the expressive, painterly style of his energetic fox-hunting scenes and his "portraits" of purebred hounds (see also lot 105 and 108).
Emms used the setting of hounds in a kennel on numerous occasions and these compositions, like the present work, are among his most memorable. The nobility of these creatures is accentuated by the intimate perspective, inviting the viewer into the picture space in which the hounds lounge on a bed of straw. Few artists describe the coloring of canine's coats better than Emms; he employs a warm palette of browns and yellow-whites to capture the folds of soft fur and drooping muzzles, reserving glints of amber for their wise eyes. The overlapping placement of the hounds suggests the familial relationship of the pack at rest after a long day's hunt. Emms further personalizes the scene by inscribing the names "Nathan" and "Gambler" at the top of the composition, identifying the two sitting hounds at center, while he paints the extended red tongue of the young terrier to look like a smile, suggesting his energetic character as he props himself on a soundly sleeping fellow. The working terrier remains alert as unlike the hounds he was often carried along during the hunt, released at the end to chase the fox gone to ground.