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John Wootton, 1682–1764
Hounds in a Landscape
Materials & Techniques:
Gray wash, pen and brown ink, black ink, charcoal crayon, and graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Mount: 14 5/16 × 12 1/4 inches (36.4 × 31.1 cm), Contemporary drawn border: 10 7/16 × 9 5/8 inches (26.5 × 24.4 cm), Sheet: 8 3/4 × 7 15/16 inches (22.2 × 20.2 cm)


Signed in pen with brown ink, lower center of mount: "JWr; Wooton"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
animal art
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IIIF Manifest:

John Wootton excelled in classical landscapes and sporting scenes, some on canvases of large proportions. The present drawing, though modest in size, represents an important hunting subgenre for Wootton: group portraits of hounds. Early in his career, Wootton painted numerous pictures in which hounds took center stage and humans played little or no role; for instance, “Hounds and a Magpie” (ca. 1716, Hermitage), formerly in Sir Robert Walpole’s collection, which was sold to Catherine the Great.
Stylistically, this drawing bears some resemblance to “Althorp Hounds and the Magpie” (collection of the Earl Spencer), a fact emphasized by the “trompe de chasse” (hunting horn) suspended from a branch. A painting in the Yale Center for British Art, Releasing the Hounds (ca. 1740–50, B2001.2.290), offers even more striking compositional correspondence. Although dissimilar in size and techniques, they complete each other in that they represent different stages of hunting ritual—a theme that Wootton fully exploited in a set of four hunting scenes, from the gathering prior to the hunt up to the kill, known today through engravings by Bernard Baron dated 1726. It is difficult, in the present case, to know with certainty if the scene takes place before or after the hunt (no spoil is shown). The hounds, as Wootton captured them, are at rest among themselves, almost as if they were interacting. While some of Wootton’s studies denote a careful attention to hounds’ morphology (see, for instance, a sketch attributed to Wootton in The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, Calif.), the artist seems here less concerned with physiological minutiae than with psychological perceptiveness. Wootton’s masterly appreciation of canine pantomime, where postures and inflexions appear capable of conveying emotions, results in a very refined conversation piece. This makes Wootton a predecessor, in every respect, of George Stubbs’s fine pictorial and psychological interpretation of animal character.

Stéphane Roy

Baskett, John, Jules David Prown, Duncan Robinson, Brian Allen, and William Reese. Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art. New Haven : Yale Center for British Art , 2007, cat. no. 13

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2007-10-20 - 2008-01-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 246-47, no. 13, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 13, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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