'Rabbiting' _ Lytham Sandhills
Research by Sarah Kellam
Acc No 78
Artist Richard Ansdell
Artist dates 1815 -1885
Medium Oil on canvas
Size 28 x 60 in
Inscr: Signed with initials and
Date painted 1878
Donor Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton
Date donated February 1935
This was painted when Ansdell still owned 'Starr Hills' but was in the process of moving to London to advance his career.
This is the painting – above all others – that links Ansdell to Lytham, depicting as it does the famous sandhills that Ansdell loved so much. It gives us a real sense of what the landscape must have looked like at that time and how it was used for communal grazing and hunting rabbits to supplement the family dinner table. It is widely believed in the family that this is a self-portrait of Richard Ansdell and his eldest son, Thomas Chester Ansdell. The dog was probably a pet of the family. Thomas ‘was granted special permission to shoot rabbits on the dunes’ (Arthur Todd, The Life of Richard Ansdell RA, Manchester 1919).
The Treasures of the North Exhibition was mounted in aid of charity by Christie’s – the aim was to choose one painting by all the major northern artists – this is the Ansdell painting that they chose.
This picture epitomises the sense of open space that originally brought Ansdell and his young family to Lytham. It is presented dramatically and entertainingly with special atmosphere provided by the sky, which indicates a heavy rainstorm coming in, just as it would be today. The views are sweeping with 'Commonside' in the distance. Donkeys grazed all over the common and are used by Ansdell here in an interesting composition. He could never resist painting an animal! I am sure that after he left Lytham and 'Starr Hills' for London, he would often hark back to this scene and the fact that he called his London residence 'Lytham House' (in Kensington) demonstrates the great love that he always felt for Lytham St Annes.
To view the complete artworks of Richard Ansdell in the Collection please click on the his name under Artists on the Home Page.
Sarah Kellam is the Great Great Grand-daughter of Richard Ansdell
The Life of Richard Ansdell RA,