Although listed in most of the art reference books, there is a dearth of information about the British animal and sporting artist, Sylvester Martin. He did exhibit a number of paintings at the Birmingham Royal Society of British Artists between the years 1856 and 1906, and there is a record of his living in Birmingham from 1872 to 1899, in the neighborhood of a very young J.R.R. Tolkien (author of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings”). It is said that his father may have been the landscape and sporting artist, Anson Ambrose Martin.
Sylvester Martin is mainly known for hunting scenes featuring dogs, but he did execute enough paintings of horses to be noticed by Sally Mitchell, author of “The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists,” who features an illustration of one of his works in her book. He was, she writes, “a man who obviously understood hunting.” She adds that “his pictures are quite tight and carefully finished.”
In this example, the artist shows his talent in depicting two setters at work. As Martin had an affinity for this type of dog, he shows a Gordon setter and an English setter, painted in fine detail. A pheasant is seen trying to escape on the left side. The landscape and background offer much detail as well, with a small river and a good deal of greenery in the form of trees and shrubs.
It is signed and dated 1878 in the lower right. On the back of the canvas, he wrote his name and address: “Brook Cottage, Hall Green, Birmingham.”
The painting is housed in its original wood and gesso, ornately decorated gilded frame with a wide gilt slip.
The painting has been professionally cleaned and restored, so it is in ready-to-hang condition. The original gilt frame has some small losses to the gesso work, but these do not detract from the overall decorative aspect of the frame.
It measures 34 inches wide by 23-¾ inches high, including the frame.
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Hunting Dogs in a Landscape by Sylvester Martin
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