After a Day's Sport
Appraisal by Sarah Kellam
Great Great Grand-daughter of Richard Ansdell
This painting is attributed to Richard Ansdell and William Powell Frith, bearing signatures by both artists.
Sarah Kellam would not like to 100 percent attribute this to Ansdell as a collaboration with Frith – to a practised eye, there are anomalies and although there was sometimes a collaboration, it is highly unusual for both artists to sign – only one would usually sign. In a collaboration, it was the practice that Ansdell would paint any animals and/or birds and maybe the figures and Frith would paint the landscape and maybe the figures – depending on what the two artists decided between them.
This is a very pleasant summer depiction of a poor country family scraping a living from the land. They would probably have a little plot with a basic cottage where they would all live in one room with an earth floor. Alternatively, this could be a young gamekeeper’s family living in a tied cottage with use of some land. The woman is carrying corn sheaves on her back (Ansdell loved painting corn sheaves and he was particularly good at them – often adding a few wild flowers for interest. This time there are poppies). The presence of the corn sheaves tell me that there is land to be harvested and maybe animals to be fed. It is high summer and the young man has probably been out shooting the game birds that scatter as corn is cut. In this case, there is partridge for the pot. The little girl is trying to feel the softness of the feathers – as curious as any two-year old today. The English Setter is beautifully painted (I can see Ansdell at work here). He/she is well-fed and well-worked, but is an important member of the family, helping them to put food on the table by retrieving any shot game.
It is worthwhile taking a look at the surrounding vegetation and flora – it is exquisitely painted and informative as to what the hedgerows looked like all that time ago. There is a scythe in the foreground which had been put to good use on the day. The ladder in the hedge appears in many Ansdell paintings and was an effective, stock-proof way to close a gap but to also allow access – and much cheaper than a gate!
I would have to say that the dog and the ladder are definitely by Ansdell’s hand. A bit of an enigma this painting.
They do have rather a lot of clothes on for high summer!
Sarah Kellam © 2018
To view the complete artworks of Richard Ansdell in the Collection please click on his name under Artists on the Home Page.
William Powell Frith 1819-1909
William Powell Frith was born in Aldfield, Near Ripon, North Yorkshire on 9 January 1819. He was encouraged to take up art by his father, a hotelier in Harrogate. Moving to London in 1835, he began his studies at Sass's Academy in Charlotte Street before attending the Royal Academy schools.
Frith started his career as a portrait painter and first exhibited at the British Institute in 1838. In the 1840s he often based his work on literary output, including Charles Dickens, whose portrait he painted, and Laurence Sterne. From the 1850s Frith became one of the great masters of the Victorian era, painting multi-played modern scenes that highlighted the social tensions and complexities of the times. Indeed his immense popularity reputedly necessitated additional security at the Royal Academy - which exhibited over 140 of his paintings during his lifetime. Frith also became one of the most commercially successful painters of the era, as the mass produced engravings of his masterpieces transported his artwork to the parlours of the world and catapulted him to fame. In 1865 he was chosen to paint the marriage of the Prince of Wales.
Frith was a skilled narrator and innovator, filling his pictures with a multitude of contemporary characters representing the various levels of Victorian society. Famous works include his depiction of the overcrowded beach at Ramsgate, Life at the Seaside, Epson Downs, the bustle of Paddington Station in The Railway Station, A Private View of the Royal Academy, 1881, and arguably one of his greatest masterpieces, Derby Day.
Frith, who was married twice and had nineteen children, died in 1909 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery , London.
(Frith research - Anne Matthews. Includes details taken from information provided by Harrogate Borough Council on the occasion of an exhibition of Frith's work held at the Mercer Gallery, Harrogate from 15 June to 29 September 2019)