James Seymour

Mr Russell on his Bay Hunter

c.1740

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 876 x 1108 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Paul Mellon through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Reference
T02372

Summary

This painting by the early sporting artist James Seymour is one of the artist's most sympathetic portraits. The sitter is depicted with a hound in a hunting field. An old label on the verso reads 'Paternal Ancestor (Russell)'; however, no precise identification of the sitter has been made. Given Seymour's associations with Newmarket, it is possible that the sitter may be a junior member of the family of Admiral Russell (created Baron Shingay and Earl of Orford for his victory over the Dutch at La Hogue; died 1729). Admiral Russell acquired the manor of Chippenham Park, just outside Newmarket. Seymour was passionate about racing and is believed to have owned racehorses himself.

The detailing of the costume, such as the firmly-tied breeches-lacings and the buttoned leather strap above the knee to keep the breeches from riding up, is painted with the artist's customary meticulousness. His very precise records of the animals, clothing, equipment and locale exactly fulfilled his patrons' requirements.

Further reading:
Judy Egerton, British Sporting and Animal Paintings 1655-1867, London (and New Haven?) 1978, p.45, no.48, reproduced pl.17
Tate Gallery 1978-80 Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, p.41, reproduced

Terry Riggs
March 1998

Display caption

Seymour's subject-matter was limited to hunting or racing scenes and stiffly posed horse-portraits. His masterpiece, 'A Kill at Ashdown Park', is on display in Room 4. This composition, showing the genial Mr Russell in the hunting-field, is typical of the artist's somewhat formalised manner. Although Seymour's lack of academic training is apparent in his simplified draughtsmanship, he has nevertheless produced a skilful and evocative record of the appearance of the animals, and of the costume and saddlery of the period. Seymour came from a wealthy family but his extravagant lifestyle compelled him to work for a living. His natural ability at drawing animals enabled him to find almost continuous employment in painting horses, despite having lost his fortune on them.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T02372 Mr Russell on his Bay Hunter c.1740

Oil on canvas, 870×1108 (34 1/2×43 5/8)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KPE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
PROVENANCE ... C.B. Kidd, sold Sotheby's 23 November 1966 (169, repr.) bt Ackermann for Paul Mellon
EXHIBITED British Sporting Paintings, Fermoy Art Gallery, King's Lynn 1979 (3, repr. in col. on cover of cat.)
LITERATURE Egerton 1978, p.45, no.48, pl.17; Christopher Neve, ‘Gift from a Galloping Anglophile’, Country Life, 30 August 1979, p.585, fig.3

An old label on the back reads ‘Paternal Ancestor (Russell)’. Mr Russell, preceded by a hound, is portrayed in the hunting-field; he turns to face the spectator, revealing individual features and an alert expression which have together stimulated Seymour to one of his ablest and most sympathetic exercises in human portraiture. The sitter, who appears to be in his forties, has so far eluded precise identification. Given Seymour's continued association with Newmarket, a tentative suggestion is that he may be a junior member of the family of Admiral Russell (created Baron Shingay and Earl of Orford for his victory over the Dutch at La Hogue; d.1729), who acquired the manor of Chippenham Park, just outside Newmarket.
Details of costume, such as the firmly tied breeches-lacings and the buttoned leather strip above the knee to keep the breeches from riding up, are sharply observed and painted with Seymour's customary meticulousness.


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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