Jane Oakley | A Retrospective on Sporting Art

Jane Oakley | A Retrospective on Sporting Art

As we prepare for our next Sporting Art sale, to be held on Wednesday 2 June 2021, Head of Pictures Jane Oakley takes a look back at some of the successes of the sale from the last three years.

While the sporting market has taken a bit of a dip from the dizzying heights of the 1980s, our bond with animals – and particularly dogs and horses – seems embedded in our culture and tradition. Along the way, we have seen strong bidding for particular works of art that clearly have inspired the viewer. The first of these and a particular favourite at Sworders was George Earl’s oil painting ‘In the Brambles’, depicting a delightful little terrier peeking expectantly out of foliage, eyes bright, and ready to command. The picture, beyond its obvious quality as a painting, coveys such character and spontaneity that it is utterly charming. George Earl was famous in his day for his portraits of dogs – some whimsical like the present picture, and some were portraits of pedigree champions. This piece was estimated at £2,000-3,000 but it finally sold for £5,870 including fees.


George Earl - lot 152

George Earl (1824-1908) IN THE BRAMBLES. Signed c.r., oil on board, 34 x 34cm. Sold for £5,870 including fees in 2019


Dog paintings come in many varieties. Dog is man’s best friend because he is a faithful companion, like our young terrier in the brambles, but they can also help us as working dogs. In our last sale in 2020, we achieved a great price for a painting of a cocker spaniel poised to catch a woodcock by John Trickett. When game shooting for pheasants, or woodcock, a dog will be used to catch and retrieve the quarry. This work captures the drama of that moment: the bird is in flight, the spaniel is caught alertly turning its head, panting, its luscious silky hair blowing in the wind. For anyone that has a spaniel, Trickett captures the essence of the dog perfectly and we can identify with what we are seeing. We are often, I believe, charmed by animal paintings when they relate to our own animals and this is the skill of a good artist – to create an image that has vitality and that looks like an animal, not just a picture of one.


John Trickett - lot 214

John Trickett (b.1953) A spaniel flushing a woodcock. Signed l.l., oil on canvas, 40.5 x 50.5cm. Sold for £2,470 including fees in 2020


One of my favourite artists is Lionel Edwards. He was very versatile and painted sporting, racing and animal subjects. He had a very light, rapid style that conveys spontaneity and vitality to his paintings. In 2019 we sold a dramatic watercolour of horse and riders jumping Becher’s Brook in the 1959 Grand National. He has masterfully captured the excitement of the race, focussing on probably the most famous fence in the world. His ability to depict the horses with muscular accuracy is remarkable. The picture was a popular one and after a battle in the room, we sold it for £4,338 including fees.


Lionel Edwards - Lot 79

Lionel Dalhousie Robertson Edwards RI RCA (1878-1966) BECHER'S BROOK, GRAND NATIONAL 1959. Signed l.r., watercolour, 17.5 x 36cm. Sold for £4,338 including fees in 2019


Our biggest success so far with the sale has to be a very early dog painting that we sold in 2018, by the little-known Dutch artist Van Horn. Dated 1648, it shows spaniels and a pointer in a landscape. It is a large picture, and unusual for its date in its detailed depiction of the dogs. Pictures from that period tend to be a bit grizzlier, for example, mastiffs tearing the flesh of a captured deer. We didn’t know the artist but we liked the painting. We had no idea it would go on to sell for a staggering £77,116 including fees.


Van Horn - lot 56

Dutch School, c.1648 SPANIELS AND POINTER IN A LANDSCAPE. Indistinctly signed and dated 'Horn 1648' l.r., oil on canvas,103 x 124cm. Sold for £77,116 including fees in 2018



We are currently accepting entries for our forthcoming sale of Sporting Art, Wildlife and Dogs, to be held on Wednesday 2 June, and looking for work by artists including George Earl, John Emms, John Ferneley, Heywood Hardy, John Cyril Harrison, John Frederick Herring, Sir Alfred Munnings, John Nost Sartorius, Sir Peter Markham Scott, James Seymour, David Shepherd, Archibald Thorburn, Arthur Wardle, George Wright amongst others.

To find out more about the sale or to discuss a valuation, please contact our specialist Jane Oakley - janeoakley@sworder.co.uk | 01279 817778

Entries close Monday 19 April.





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