Gathering for the Huntc. 1856 by
Bonheur, Rosa 1822-1899
On a misty morning, huntsmen have gathered around a welcome fire with their horses and eager dogs. Although action is restrained, a sense of anticipation hangs in the air. At left, pairs of dogs cast for the scent, while an excited group in the center have mistaken a man's fur jacket for live quarry. As is usual in Bonheur's paintings, animals take precedence over people, who are here indicated in shadow. The animals, on the other hand, are frequently lit by brilliant pathes of light. Described in much greater detail, they are individualized through behavior and appearance. Each dog has its own movement as well as its own distinctive black or brown markings. The horses are viewed from side, front, or back and are different colors- dapple-grey, bay (with black mane and tail), and chestnut. The bay horse and the dog in front of him look directly out of the painting, establishing a bond with the viewer. In contrast, human movements seem less convincing, particularly those of the stiff dog-keeper in the center. Bonheur draws attention first to the foreground group, then leads the eye into the distance with the diagonal arrangement of the dogs, rutted track, and fallen logs. In the background, other hunters, horses, and hounds approach the waiting group. The landscape is skillfully painted, with mists obscuring the forest and creating atmosphere and depth.
Before the 1853 exhibition of The Horse Fair, Bonheur's reputation as an animal painter, already considerable, rested on her depictions of farm animals. Although she had exhibited several paintings of horses in the 1840s, it was The Horse Fair that firmly established her as a competent equine painter. It seems plausible that she wished to follow up the success of The Horse Fair with other compositions featuring horses, and hunting scenes were a suitable and traditional choice. Bonheur's first known painting of this subject is Gathering for the Hunt. She returned to this theme on only a few other occasions, possibly (as a listing of her dated works implies) because her buyers still prefered her paintings of farm animals and another new subject, deer. She may have hoped her equine paintings would appeal to the many horse enthusiasts in France or England, where sorting pictures of this type were popular, especially those of Sir Edwin Landseer, whose studio Bonheur had visited in 1855. The anecdotal quality of the Haggin work may point to Landseer's influence, but a Dutch source is also likely. The artist must have sold this painting soon after its completion, since by 1857 it was in the famous New York Collection of August Belmont.
Size (inches): 31 1/4 x 59
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Haggin Room