LANDSEER, Sir Edwin Henry (1802-1873) – LANDSEER, Thomas (1795-1880). The Drive: Shooting deer on the pass; scene in the Black Mount, Glen-Urchy Forest. London, c. 1850.

$ 4,500.00

Single sheet, (32 ¾ x 43 inches). Fine engraving showing a hunting scene (separation at plate mark, repaired, affecting the imprint).

First edition. Sir Edwin Landseer once wrote, “Who does not glory in the death of a fine stag?” In 1847 the Marquis of Bredalbane commissioned Landseer to create a large painting he entitled “A Drive of Deer – Glen Orchay.” Landseer sent the painting to the Royal Academy, and Breadalbane presented it to Prince Albert (the engraving is dedicated to the Prince Consort as well). It was then engraved by Thomas Landseer, Sir Edwin’s brother, and at the time was the largest plate ever executed from any work by that artist. Glen Orchay, also written as Glenorchy, is located in Argylshire, and visible in both the painting and the engraving are a range of hills which are part of the Southern Grampians.

“Landseer had close links with the sphere of zoological art through his friendship with [Joseph] Wolf and through the activities of his own brothers, Charles and Thomas Landseer, both of whom were occasionally employed as illustrators of popular books on natural history. However, his paintings had a scale, dramatic power and imaginative exaltation that set them apart from such works. They were history paintings, but of a completely original kind, in the sense that they invested the lives of animals themselves with tragic grandeur. That this could be done so convincingly is itself evidence of great changes in attitudes to nature in the nineteenth century: the profound philosophical implications of the discoveries in geology, paleontology and evolutionary theory which I have outlined placed animals at the forefront of consciousness. As a writer in the London Quarterly Review put it in 1874, Landseer painted ‘the poetry of animal life, running so curiously parallel to the poetry of human life’ (Diana Donald, Picturing Animals in Britain, 1750-1850, p. 94).

“One of his pictures, ‘The Drive’ (as here), which was exhibited in 1847 and acquired by Prince Albert, showed a herd of deer funneled through a narrow mountain pass and presenting an easy target for the concealed guns. As the Art-Union’s reviewer noted, what it showed was not stalking but ambush: a practice which Landseer himself described in a letter as ‘base atrocious or contemptible assassination.’ The artist who in 1844 had represented the spearing of an otter with a bravado and flamboyance that defied remonstration now showed himself increasingly ill at ease with the sporting myth” (Donald, p. 303).