From sporting painting to English hunting

From sporting painting to English hunting

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  • The departure for the hunt.

    VERNET Carle (1758 - 1836)

  • Hunting scene.

    DREUX Alfred de (1810 - 1860)

To close

Title: The departure for the hunt.

Author : VERNET Carle (1758 - 1836)

Date shown: 1787

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas The Duke of Orleans and the Duke of Chartres at a hunting meeting in 1787

Storage location: Condé museum (Chantilly) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. G. Ojeda

Picture reference: 01-004138 / PE419

The departure for the hunt.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. Ojeda

To close

Title: Hunting scene.

Author : DREUX Alfred de (1810 - 1860)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage location: Nissim de Camondo Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Picture reference: 00-011973

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Publication date: July 2011

Historical context

Of the sporting painting English hunting

At the end of the XVIIIe century, cultural and artistic exchanges between France and England are intense: the taste for stud farms and horse racing, widespread in France since 1775, was soon relayed by the sporting painting. After the Empire and the reestablishment of Franco-British relations, Anglomania was at its height, maintained by aristocrats returning from exile and by the many Britons living in Paris.

Image Analysis

A remarkable continuity

Carle Vernet represents the Duke of Orléans (future Philippe-Égalité) and his son the Duke of Chartres (future Louis-Philippe), then aged fourteen who left on a hunt. The size given to them by the painter shows, however, that they are not the main subject of his painting. In the background, the riders and the pack remind us that venery is a collective and convivial social entertainment.

The serene landscape favoring horizontals serves as a setting for the new English-style venery outfits that the Duke of Orleans adopted following his trip to England in 1783. Red frock coats, black velvet capes and yellow cuffed boots replaced the tricorns and cauldron boots that made up the traditional dress of the princely crews of the Ancien Régime.

Ceasing to be the foil of their riders, the mounts take on a new importance here. Thoroughbreds seem to pose, and one wonders if they are not the real subjects of the painting. It is true that, in English hunting, the equestrian exercise is more important than the work of the dogs. It should also be noted that the painter is familiar with the stables of the Duke of Orleans, where the two horses that his father gave him in 1778 and 1783 are housed.

Two generations later, Alfred de Dreux, just as anglophile and passionate about horse riding as his predecessor, also specialized in horse representations. If the English fashion of clothing has definitely established itself, the artist approaches the theme in a more lively way: he invites the spectator to participate in the hunt following the riders represented from behind and whose decreasing size draws the gaze. towards the horizon. The landscape remains classic in its composition with trees on both sides, but the new treatment of light and the freedom of the touch make it dependent on the English model revealed to French artists at the Salon of 1824. De Dreux studies very precisely the anatomy of horses, but he was also the first to study their attitudes, paving the way for Degas who would work from his paintings.


From English hunting to a new kind of painting

Under the Ancien Régime, hunting activity had generated only a few images, none in any case which, by its permanence, could have claimed to become a genre, with the possible exception of the theme of hunting, which illustrate the sociability of this occupation. The rural way of life of gentlemen farmers from across the Channel, the popularity of sporting painting and the prevailing anglomania in France favored the spread of English-style venery with the creation of hunting societies which made it possible to distribute the maintenance costs of the staff and of the pack among the members. The red dress, the cuffed boots and the leather breeches become the uniform of these brilliant social gatherings. Carle Vernet will fix them with remarkable stylistic continuity for more than forty years. It deals with the theme of hunting appointments from the end of Louis XVI's reign and will cultivate it until it becomes a genre in itself, as the feasts invented by Watteau had been in their time. The followers of Vernet, like Dreux, will retain from the hunt only the red of the frock coats, a complementary color to nature.

  • hunt
  • Orleans (of)
  • Louis Philippe
  • Orleans (d ') Louis-Philipe (Philippe-Egalité)
  • equestrian portrait


Claude d'ANTHENAISE (dir.), A hound, a horn and a cry, images of venery in the 19th century, catalog of the exhibition of the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, November 4, 1999 - April 2, 2000, Paris, Somogy, 1999.Claude d 'ANTHENAISE, Portraits in hunting costume, Paris, Nicolas Chaudun, 2010.Marie-Christine RENAULD, Alfred De Dreux, the horse, passion of a Parisian dandy, Paris, Artistic action of the City of Paris, 1997.

To cite this article

Béatrice MÉON-VINGTRINIER, "From sporting painting to English hunting"

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