There is an undated photo of Benedict Angell Hyland (1859-1933) posted online by the Hyland family. A distinguished-looking gentleman in coat and hat with a white handlebar mustache, he is shown busily at work painting, seated next to a pond in the bucolic countryside of south-east England.
The details of the artist’s life are sketchy but interesting. At some time, he was a teacher at the Camberwell School of Art, considered one of the best even today. Hyland lived in Paris for several years and exhibited at the Paris Salon. Information from the “Afghan Hound Times” tells us that Hyland did restoration work for the oddly fascinating, but reclusive Duke of Portland at his home, Wellbeck Abbey.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, Hyland was associated with a fine art shop, and he referred to himself as a picture framer. It is said that in 1933 he threw himself beneath a train because he was depressed that his business was failing.
The artist is listed in “A Dictionary of Sporting Artists: 1650-1990,” by Mary Ann Wingfield, as both a landscape and an animal artist, specializing in thoroughbred horses and dogs. Two of Hyland’s dog portraits are illustrated in William Secord’s “Dog Painting, 1840-1940: A Social History of the Dog in Art.” One, a Maltese terrier, dated 1881, is in full color.
In this wonderful example, the artist has painted a commissioned portrait of the racehorse, “Troubadour.” Painted standing on straw outside his barn in a relaxed pose, Troubadour had obviously become accustomed to having Hyland nearby.
The horse was painted against a background of a tall stone fence common in many landed estates. The lush English countryside provides another interesting element to the painting.
Troubadour himself was painted in great detail. The skeletal frame and muscles are accurately drawn. The head is especially well-defined and beautifully rendered. The tail is docked in the racehorse style of the day. The painting is signed on the lower left corner. The gilded slip has an inscription with the name of the horse in black painted lettering: “Troubadour (H.S.B. 1357.”
On the back of the frame is a label that reads: “E. Grindley & Palmer, Printsellers & Publishers, Artists, Colourmen, Repository of Arts and Picture Frame Manufactory, 73 & 75, Church Street, Liverpool. Opposite the Athenaeum.”
The painting is housed in its original, elaborate wood and gesso frame. The molding was deeply set with a beaded and cylindrical-shaped additions on it. The corners appear as gilded leaves, while the pattern itself that runs all around was intricately fashioned. The wide, wood and gesso gilded slip has turned a soft, lemon-yellow color that frames the horse nicely.
The painting is in excellent condition. The varnish is low-luster and has protected the painting for a long time. The frame is also in excellent condition, but it has intermittent losses of gesso on the bottom portion, as well as some minor ones on the top.
It measures 29-1/4 inches wide by 22-3/4 inches high, including the frame.
Portrait of the Racehorse, “Troubadour,” by B.A. Hyland
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