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Sporting & Wildlife Paintings

Sporting and wildlife art has been around since the 18th century, and is found most among English and American artists. Paintings come in a wide variety of subject matter. They can be stiff, formal portraits of prized racehorses in a stable, or of dogs bounding through a field on a hunt. A sporting and wildlife picture might be a study of ducks in a pond, or big game in South Africa.

Most auction houses have a special department for this area of collecting. Sotheby’s, for example, has Equestrian, Maritime, and Wildlife Art; while Christie’s has Sporting and Wildlife Art. Consistent with styles in the general history of art, animals are depicted more realistically, instead of idealized, in more recent paintings.

Photographer Eadweard Muybridge made an enormous contribution to wildlife painting when he used photography to determine how a horse moves its legs when running. In the early 20th century, sporting and wildlife artists hit a high point as painters including Archibald Thorburn and John Charlton captured a distinctive sense of realism and natural motion.

Quick Facts

  • Sotheby’s London included "Pheasants in Winter," 1909, by Archibald Thorburn in a May 22, 2014 sale of British and Irish art. The painting sold for £84,100
  • Another painting by Thorburn, "Swerving from the Guns – Red Grouse," 1913, sold for £151,250 in a Sotheby’s London sale of Victorian and Edwardian art on December 16, 2010
  • A painting from the same time period, "The Pride of the Hunt," 1913, by John Charlton, sold for £30,000 at Christie’s London on June 5, 2013

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