New Forest Foxhounds signed and dated 'JNO EMMS/1898' (lower right) oil on canvas 41 x 62 in. (104 x 157.5 cm.)
Sold with the a copy of the original signed key by Henry Martin Powell with names and birth dates of each dog, which reads as follows: No 1: Rosebud 1896; 2: Ladybird 1894, bt of Sir J. [John] Thursby; 3: Daphne 1890; 4: Sunshine 1894 bt of Sir J. Thursby; 5: Iccy (Mrs Powells terrier); 6: Dimple 1895; 7: Wizard 1896; 8: Fallacy 1895, bitch of Sir J. Thursby; 9: Gambol 1891; 10: Hasty 1896; 11: Woldsman 1890; 12: Ransack 1895; 13: Affable 1890, bt of Sir J. Thursby; 14: Helen 1896.
Provenance: Henry Martin Powell J.P., Master of the New Forest Foxhounds of Wilverley Park, Lyndhurst, Hants, who commissioned the work from the artist; Henry Weyland Martin Powell of Wilverley Park, Lyndhurst, Hants, eldest son of the above who inherited the work from his father; thence by descent.
When John Emms painted this portrait of The New Forest Foxhounds at Furzey Lane Kennels near Lyndhurst, Hants, he was at the peak of his career and as the painting proves had achieved an artistic acumen that few could rival. A keen huntsman with a consummate interest in the sporting field, Emms had the rare ability to give real life to his subject. He was at his very best when painting dogs; with confident use of fluid brushstrokes he gives weight and solidity to their different physical characteristics as well as their individual temperaments. He even adds a sense of humour, balancing the hounds attentive expressions against the lively figure of Iccy, the terrier seated above Sunshine who busily cleans himself. Indeed, the individual hounds seem to engage with the viewer from all angles. Family history relates how Emms would walk to the kennel everyday and return to his studio with one hound after another as he undertook preliminary sketches in working up to the overall comoposition.
The painting was commissioned from the artist by Henry Martin Powell (1868-1943) of Wilverley Park, Lyndhurst whose father Colonel William Martin Powell (1824-1909) had been Honorary Secretary to the Hunt 1853-87. In turn Henry Martin served as Master of Foxhounds between 1894-99 and again 1905-7. In her history of the New Forest Hunt, Mary S. Lovell notes of H. M. Powell that His dashing style of riding ensured the large fields of the day .. and was described as the best woodland huntsman who ever lived in the Forest (Mary S. Lovell, A Hunting Pageant, 1981 p. 134). Powells first term as Master had been blighted by an outbreak of fox mange that had affected the whole country and by the sudden death of one of his huntsmen. However he proved a very able Master and in 1895 reunited the Forests Eastern and Western packs which had been divided ten years earlier.
Having been educated at Clare College Cambridge, in 1896 Henry Martin Powell married Eleanor née Compton (d. 1949), whose terrier Emms has painted with perfect skill. Henry Martin and Eleanor Powell had three daughters, Eleanor, Ruth and Esther and two sons, Henry Weyland Martin (b. 1902) and John Buckworth Martin (b. 1907; father of the present owner). Both the painting and Wilverley Park then passed down to the eldest son Henry Weyland Martin, who like his father was a keen huntsman; the oil was later acquired by the present owner.
The history of hunting in the New Forest goes back to 1089 when William the Conqueror established it as a Royal Hunting Forest; foxhunting was first recorded there in 1675 but it was not until 1781 that the New Forest Hunt was formed with Vincent Gilbert as its first Master. At that time the hounds, known as Mr Gilberts Hounds, were kennelled at Lambs Corner, Bartley. When John Warde became Master in 1808 they were kept at Kings House, Lyndhurst where in 1789 George III and the Prince of Wales had stayed and the latter had enjoyed two days out with the hounds. 1814 marked an outbreak of rabies and many of the dogs died; the same year Sam Nicholls took over as Master and the kennels were moved to Boltons Bench. In 1828 they moved once more to Burntford House in Bramshaw, five miles from Lyndhurst. Finally new kennels were built on land donated by H.C. Compton 1843 at Furzey Lawn, where they remain to the present day. When H. M. Powell became Master, Will Povey his whipper-in also acted as kennel-man; Povey was known as a conscientious worker and had a quiet manner with the pack. Powells hounds largely comprised of the bloodstock bought by Gerald Lascelles in 1885. But as Powell was a great admirer of Grafton blood the pack was increased by the Grafton draft as well as by the home-breed.
What we know of Emms is almost as interesting as the painting itself. Born on April 21st 1841 at Blofield, Norfolk, he was the son of Henry William Emms an amateur artist. Emms had two brothers and a sister, the eldest of which married the brother of Sir William Richmond P.R.A. Like all aspiring artists, Emms travelled to London where he became an assistant to Frederic Lord Leighton P.R.A. It was through Leighton that Emms first visited Lyndhurst when he assisted the former to paint a fresco in Lyndhurst Parish Church. He then made his debut at the Royal Academy in 1866 and proceeded to exhibit elsewhere at the British Institution, Royal Society of British Artists and the New Watercolour Society.
In 1872 he returned to Lyndhurst where his skill in portraying animals, particularly dogs as well as his participation in the hunting field and convivial nature led to no want of patrons. Powell, for instance much admired Emms talent and so in addition to the present work commissioned the artist to paint a scene of the kill, showing him with Will Povey. The Victorian gentlemans love of his horse and dog led to many other commissions including one from the Duke of Newcastle to paint his Clumber spaniels and from other dog owners to depict their Crufts winners. In 1880 Emms married Fanny Primmer daughter of a local Lyndhurst gentleman. Soon after their marriage he was working in London but returned in either 1883 or 1888 to Lyndhurst where he built a large house and studio in Queens Road.
Emms cut a flamboyant figure, always dressed in a long black cloak and matching wide brimmed hat, he and his family led a somewhat bohemian life. When times were good, after selling a painting, he would take Fanny, their three daughters and son up to London to stay in the best hotels and live life to the full. But times were not always good. During the early 1900s Emms suffered a stroke and was unable to work; as a result he took to heavy drinking and the familys finances went from bad to worse.
The year after Emms completed this painting he executed another similar but slightly smaller oil (40 x 50 ins) entitled Hours of Idleness showing six foxhounds and a terrier in a kennel, which hung at the Royal Academy 1899. The latter work, painted with similar bravado but less polish, was sold in 2004 achieving a world auction record for the artist despite having passed through the sale rooms a few years before. The New Forest Foxhounds however has many added advantages, not only is it larger and has nearly twice as many hounds but appears to be a far more accomplished work. The painting is further enhanced by knowledge of the New Forest Hounds and the Hunts history and the fact that the painting has remained in the Powell family to the present day.