Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Catching Sight: The World of the British Sporting Print

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bachelor's Hall: Full Cry
Loretta reports:

My recent travels took me to Richmond, VA.  Naturally, a museum being in the vicinity, I went.

In fact, I visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts every chance I get because (1) it houses a fine collection, with style; (2) its walls always show me something relevant to my areas of research; and (3) its permanent collection includes a breathtaking collection of Art Nouveau furnishings and jewelry, which I’ll share with you in future posts. The restaurant is genius, too, by the way.

It was my good fortune to be in town when Catching Sight: The World of the British Sporting Print was on show.  Many of the works in this exhibition of 18th and 19th century sporting prints belong to the Museum’s collection, but are too fragile to keep on permanent view.  Some were on loan, mainly from the Yale Center for British Art, which also had a tremendous benefactor in Paul Mellon. Among several knockouts—familiar prints made new because they were full size, inches from my face—were Charles Cooper Henderson’s The Olden Time and James Pollard’s Approach to Christmas and Cottagers Hospitality to Travellers.

In and Out Clever
 And then there was Henry Thomas Alken, with whom I’ve become familiar while searching for driving and riding scenes.  Along with some witty views of hunting, his work in the show included a set of six prints titled The High Mettled Racer.  They tell in pictures and verse the story of a thoroughbred, from foal to death, and have proved impossible to find online in this particular iteration, although there are lots of “after Alken” versions, not half so vibrant, to my mind. From the first verse:

He now is all nature, his limbs finely formed,
His mouth never bitted, his whole form unadorned;
 By rich colour’d silks, platted mane, and such stuff,
For a thorough breed Foal is quite handsome enough.

It’s poignant, and since I cry over Little Nell no matter what Oscar Wilde said and no matter how many times I read The Old Curiosity Shop, you can be sure I cried over the horse, right there in the gallery.

If you can get to Richmond, this is a show worth seeing.  If you can’t, the catalog will at least show you tiny versions of this glorious collection of prints.

Illustrations are courtesy the Yale Center for British Art, since the VMFA seems not to have any of their collection online.  Above left:  Francis Calcraft Turner, Bachelor's Hall:  Full Cry (1835 to 1836) courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.  Below right:  Henry Thomas Alken, In and Out Clever (undated), Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, Gift of Francis P. Garvan, B.A. 1897 (for Whitney Sporting Art Collection in memory of Harry Payne Whitney, B.A. 1894  


LynS said...

Also in Virginia near the home of Paul Mellon is the National Sporting Library. They have coaching events.

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