Research by Sarah Kellam
Great Great Grand-daughter of Richard Ansdell
Acc No 75
Artist Richard Ansdell
Artist dates 1815-1885
Medium Oil on canvas under glass
Size 180.34 x 121.92 cm (71 x 48 in)
Date painted undated
Donor Alderman & Mrs J H Dawson
Date donated December 1936
Note: L07 EY989CN stamped on stretcher
It difficult to believe that a major painting such as this is unsigned and undated – there must be a signature somewhere – either under the frame or painted over during earlier conservation – if there is evidence of this.
EXHIBITED: No mention of any exhibition and too fragile to exhibit in recent times although it was, for some years, displayed in the main reception room in the Town Hall in St Annes.
NOTES OF INTEREST: This is one of Ansdell’s Highland scenes and is unusual in that the shepherd and his flock is secondary to the composition – he has been forfeited for Ansdell to make way for a beautiful depiction of a Fallow Deer doe and her young buck. (please note that not all Fallow Deer have the characteristic white spots on their rumps and it also depends on the time of year). It is also interesting to note that Ansdell has chosen to depict Fallow Deer and not the usual Red Deer that we associate with Scotland – I think this is deliberate to attract a sympathetic eye in that Fallow Deer are prettier and more vulnerable.
APPRAISAL NOTES: This is one of a crop of paintings of deer which, for a time, fascinated Ansdell (here is another example) The group illustrated here is unrealistic in that deer never stay together in a family group.
The depiction in “Startled Deer” is much more naturalistic in that young mothers (hinds) stay with their bucks at least until they are weaned. The stags roam together in a separate group. A group of stags are depicted in the middle left distance in our painting. The different sizes of their antlers denote varying ages. Despite having no known signature, this painting is undoubtedly by Ansdell’s hand – the rocks are particularly characteristic and I would recognise an Ansdell rock anywhere! Sometimes the same rock appears in different paintings (when the contents of Ansdell’s studio was sold off after his death, there were many studies of rock – all kept for reference purposes for when he worked on a canvas such as this). I would put the time of year as late summer or early autumn just before the rutting season when, once again, this hind would become pregnant. That might be one reason why she is hiding from the stags behind a very well-placed Ansdell rock or it may be that she is literally startled by the shepherd, his dog and their flock in the middle distance. The shepherd is bringing the flock down to lower pastures in preparation for the coming winter. Ansdell is particularly good at a receding mountain landscape, as depicted here, painted against a background of cerulean blue sky with a few birds wheeling around – iconic Ansdell themes. It is left to the viewer to decide why the deer is startled, but startled she is – the single highlight in her eye conveying such a sharp emotion. What a tender painting as a welcome contrast to the deer stalking scenes by Ansdell that we are all used to!