James Seymour

A Kill at Ashdown Park

1743

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1803 x 2388 mm
frame: 2030 x 2618 x 80 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and subscribers 1969
Reference
T01115

Summary

The principal figure, in tricorne hat and seen in profile on his dark grey hunter, is Fulwar, 4th Baron Craven of Hamstead Marshall, Berkshire. He is represented here with his huntsmen and hounds at the conclusion of a hunt on the Berkshire Downs near his home at Ashdown Park. Born between 1700 and 1704, Fulwar would have been about forty years old in this painting. He was the younger son of William, 2nd Baron Craven, and succeeded his brother in 1739. He died unmarried at Benham Valence, Buckinghamshire, on 10 November 1764.

Ashdown House is clearly visible in the background on the left of the picture. It was built c.1665, by an unidentified architect (possibly William Winde), as a hunting-lodge for William, 1st Baron Craven. Seymour's viewpoint is from the south-east, on Kingstone Downs, looking towards the back of Ashdown House. The two hills on the right of the picture are probably Weathercock Hill and (further from the spectator) Crowberry Tump.

Fox-hunting first appeared in England in the late seventeenth century, replacing the earlier sport of stag-hunting. Its success was only gradual, however, and stag-hunting remained common in many parts of England up to the middle of the eighteenth century. Roger Longrigg (p.65) suggests that the 4th Lord Craven began fox-hunting in the year of his succession. He notes that Seymour portrays tricolour (black, white and tan) foxhounds, with some of the blood of the Duke of Richmond's kennels at Charleton in Sussex, and that the Cravens were typical of the territorial magnates who maintained the hunt at their own expense. Seymour shows the foreground littered with 'sarsens', the distinctive sixty to seventy million year-old boulders that still characterise the district.

Seymour painted the 4th Lord Craven in other sporting pursuits as well. A picture (present whereabouts unknown) also set on the Berkshire Downs shows him coursing, apparently with the same two greyhounds which are portrayed chasing a hare in the background on the right of this painting. Some of the horses appear to be the same in both pictures.

Further reading:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970, p.67, reproduced p.30 in colour
Roger Longrigg, The History of Foxhunting, London 1975, pp.60, 62, 65, reproduced

Terry Riggs
March 1998

Display caption

The setting for this lively hunting scene was the Berkshire estate of Fulwar, 4th Baron Craven, who is shown in profile on a dark grey hunter to the left. His hunting-lodge, Ashdown House, appears in the distance.

Seymour’s subject-matter was limited entirely to sporting scenes. He painted in a rather naive manner, using an unsophisticated form of perspective and with the figures and animals arranged in stiff poses. His interests lay rather in the decorative patterns in the composition. This is particularly apparent in the stylised grouping of hounds surrounding the huntsman holding up the dead fox.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T01115 A Kill at Ashdown Park 1743

Oil on canvas 1805×2390 (71×94)
Inscribed ‘J. Seymour pinxit. 1743’ on stone wall b.l.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and with individual contributions from Mr A.H. Carnwarth, the Macdonald-Buchanan Trustees, Frank Partidge and Sons, Sir Colin Anderson, Sir Henry and Lady D'Avigdor Goldsmid, The Hon. Mrs Peter Samuel, Mrs Cynthia Fraser and others 1969
PROVENANCE Presumably commissioned by Fulwar, 4th Baron Craven; by descent to Cornelia, Countess of Craven, sold Sotheby's 27 November 1968 (118, repr.) bt Ackermann for a private collector in the USA but export licence witheld, whereupon bt by the Tate Gallery
LITERATURE Roger Longrigg, The History of Foxhunting, 1975, pp.60, 62, and 65, repr.

The principal figure is Fulwar, 4th Baron Craven of Hampstead Marshall, Berkshire, wearing a tricorne hat and seen in profile on his dark grey hunter. He is portrayed at the age of about forty; born between 1700 and 1704, he was the younger son of William, 2nd Baron Craven, by his wife Elizabeth Skipwith, after whose brother Sir Fulwar Skipwith he was presumably named. Fulwar Craven succeeded as 4th Baron Craven on the death of his elder brother, William, 3rd Baron Craven. He was educated at Rugby School and at Magdalen College, Oxford; he died unmarried at Benham Valence, Bucks., on 10 November 1764.

Ashdown House, which is clearly visible in the background on the left in Seymour's picture, was built c.1665 by an unidentified architect as a hunting-lodge for William, 1st Baron Craven (the constant supporter of Elizabeth of Bohemia); the principal Craven seat was at Hampstead Marshall, near Newbury. The plan of Ashdown House is a straightforward square, set facing the four cardinal points of the compass. An octagonal cupola crowned by a golden ball surmounts the roof, commanding a very wide view of the Berkshire Downs. Seymour's viewpoint is from the south-east, on Kingstone Downs, looking towards the south and east (i.e. the back) of Ashdown House. The two hills on the right of the picture appear to be Weathercock Hill and (further from the spectator) Crowberry Tump (the compilers are grateful to the Berkshire County Archivist for establishing the viewpoint). A panoramic view of the house and park drawn by Leonard Knyff and engraved by Johannes Kip, published in Britannia Illustrata, 1708, shows them to have remained unchanged in Seymour's painting of 1743.

Longrigg suggests (p.65) that the 4th Lord Craven began fox-hunting in 1739 (the year of his succession); his successors maintained the pack. He notes that Seymour portrays tricolour (black, white and tan) foxhounds, with some of the blood of the Duke of Richmond's kennels at Charlton in Sussex, and that the Cravens were typical of the territorial magnates who maintained the hunt at their own expense.

Seymour shows the foreground littered with ‘sarsens’, the distinctive sandstone boulders that still characterise the district.

Other paintings by Seymour in the Craven sale (Sotheby's 27 November 1968) show the 4th Lord Craven in other sporting pursuits. One of these works (119, repr.), also set on the Berkshire Downs, represents him coursing, apparently with the same two greyhounds which are portrayed chasing a hare in the background on the right in T01115; some of the horses appear to be the same in both pictures.


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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