Peter Tillemans

Foxhunting in Wooded Country


Not on display

Peter Tillemans c.1684–1734
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1022 × 1172 mm
frame: 1241 × 1378 × 85 mm
Presented by Paul Mellon through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979

Display caption

This hunting scene shows the moment just before the kill: the fox is cornered by the hounds, for the winding river on the left leaves no way out. The Flemish painter Tillemans was one of the first artists to produce sporting pictures in Britain. Scenes of hunting and racing were to become a stock subject in British art. The idea of ordinary men and wealthy landowners working in harmony with their dogs and horses provided an enduring, and to many people reassuring, ideal of country life.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry

T02376 Foxhunting in Wooded Country c.1720–30

Oil on canvas 1020×1170(40 1/8×46 1/16)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KBE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
PROVENANCE ...; Wheeler Ltd, Ryder Street, 1961; Gooden & Fox, from whom bt by Paul Mellon 1961
EXHIBITED Painting in England 1700–1850: Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia 1963 (301)
LITERATURE Egerton 1978, p.34, no.35, pl.II; Christopher Neve, ‘A Gift from a Galloping Anglophile’, Country Life, 30 August 1979, p.585, fig.4

The fox in the background centre is not only hotly pursued by hounds running in from the right but is also threatened by hounds from the left; the chase has been through a wood, the pack and its followers have divided and the fox is cornered, for the winding river on the left leaves no way out. The circular movement of this composition may be compared with that of the ‘Staghunt in a Forest’ by Johannes Hackaert and Nicolaes Berchem, c.1650 (no.829 in the collection of the National Gallery, London); the similarity may well reflect one of Tillemans's legacies from the sporting art of his native country. The attribution to Tillemans is therefore retained here, although in a field where Tillemans's style is close to that of John Wootton, and even to that of Wootton's master Jan Wyck, it cannot be entirely certain.

There is a timeless, almost classical air about the landscape which suggests an ideal rather than actual setting for this foxhunt; however, an ancient stone building with a round tower in the middle distance on the left might suggest that the scene was drawn from northern, possibly border country in England.

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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