John Emms (British, 1843-1912) Five hounds and a dipper of water

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Lot 71
John Emms
(British, 1843-1912)
Five hounds and a dipper of water

Sold for £ 47,562 (US$ 62,479) inc. premium
John Emms (British, 1843-1912)
Five hounds and a dipper of water
signed and dated 'JNO EMMS//92' (lower left)
oil on canvas
61 x 80cm (24 x 31 1/2in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Barbara Harcourt-Wood Collection, UK.
    Private collection, UK (acquired from the above 9 October 1980).
    Thence by descent.

    When John Emms painted this group portrait of five hounds, he was at the peak of his career. 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. Typical of his work is the way in which the central hound engages directly with the viewer.

    Born on 21 April 1841 at Blofield, Norfolk, Emms was the son of Henry William Emms, an amateur artist. Emms had two brothers and a sister, who married the brother of Sir William Blake Richmond PRA. Like all aspiring artists, Emms travelled to London where he became an assistant to Frederic, Lord Leighton PRA. 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 his convivial nature, led to no want of patrons. The Victorian gentleman's love of his horse and dog led to many 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 Queen's 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 1900's Emms suffered a stroke and was unable to work; as a result he took to heavy drinking and the family's finances went from bad to worse. He died in November 1912.
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