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Landseer achieved enormous success with his scenes of animal life, which ranged from the heroic to the sentimental. This is one of several Highland scenes where the stag is portrayed as a noble beast: having endeavoured to hold the hounds at bay by retreating to a deep stream, the stag is defiant even in his final torment, before the deer-stalker's fatal shot. As a primordial contest between man and Nature, the subject of hunting had been an important theme in British art since at least the eighteenth century. Here the sense of struggle is intensified by the tumultuous scenery.

March 2010