John Martin Tracy is one of America's premier painters of dogs in the 19th century. Born in Ohio to abolitionist parents, he went on to study at Oberlin College and Northwestern University before serving in the Civil War. After the war he went to study in Paris in 1867,1868 and 1873. There he counted among his friends and colleagues John Singer Sargent, James Carroll Beckwith and George Inness and exhibited at the Paris Salon. When he returned from France, he settled in St Louis in 1878, later moving to Greenwich, CT and eventually Ocean Springs, MS.
While he was known to have painted battle scenes, portraits and landscapes, he is best remembered for his depiction of dogs, particularly those of the sporting variety. In addition to being an accomplished painter Tracy was a show and field trial judge which no doubt contributed to his understanding of dogs not only in confirmation, but in performance as well.
Dog Talk represents three gentlemen pausing during a day's hunt to rest in the woods to smoke their cigars. They are accompanied by three pointers and the conversation is turning to dogs. It is possibly a scene of the South as Tracy did spend some time there painting local dog owners and field trials. Also, it is very close in composition, palette and tone to a work of the same size titled Lunch in the Field which was sold in these salerooms May 22, 2007.
See Freeman Lloyd, "The Dog Pictures of Tracy: Great American Artist Stopped Doing Battle Scenes to Place Animals on Canvas," The American Kennel Gazette, vol. 53, no. 5, May 1, 1936, pp. 7-11; 156-157. and F. Turner Reuter Jr. Animal & Sporting Artists in America, Middleburg, VA. 2008 p. 712-714