A bucolic fox hunting scene. Three riders prepare to ford a stream, two hounds bounding ahead of them toward a gate being held open by a man who waves his hat. Nearby are cottages, a windmill, and a man and woman watching the lead rider and a pack of dogs race across the field into the distance. This print is characteristic of popular subgenre of 18th and 19th British sporting prints depicting aristocratic riders with their hounds in the countryside.
George Morland was a British artist in the first rank of sporting and rural genre artists of the Georgian era. His popularity in his own day was ensured by the publication of many prints after his pictures — in all, 420 engravings of Morland’s work by 74 English engravers are known to exist, perhaps a record in British art. Morland first exhibited his works at the Royal Academy at the age of 15. His pictures are characterized by picturesque nostalgia reminiscent of similar scenes painted by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th century. Morland’s father, mother and grandfather were all artists. He received his early training from his father and then was apprenticed to Philip Dawe. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at age 15. In 1786, he married the sister of mezzotint engraver William Ward, who, a month later, married Morland’s sister. The two men were close professional associates as well, with Ward engraving much of Morland’s work. From that point on, Morland was a prolific producer of paintings of rural genre subjects; the constant demand for engravings of them made him financially successful. A colorful character, he was a heavy drinker and spent himself into debt, and through much of the 1790s moved from town to town to stay one step ahead of the bailiffs. Nevertheless, he continued to produce paintings – his brother’s books list 792 in the last eight years of his life, along with 1,000 drawings. When the creditors finally caught up with him in London in 1799, Morland was arrested and made to live in the debtors’ district. He paid the price for his profligate lifestyle, and by his late 30s was in poor health, and died at age 41. Morland’s paintings are found the world’s major museums, including the Wallace Collection and National Gallery in London, the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Charles Knight was an engraver and print publisher in London from 1781 to 1826. A skilled stipple engraver, he may have been trained by the renowned engraver Francisco Bartolozzi. He produced book illustrations for literary works such as Harding’s Shakespeare. He also engraved genre subjects and portraits after such 18th century British masters as Reynolds, Romney, Hoppner, Wheatley and Morland.
H. Merke was an aquatint engraver who was born in Switzerland and worked in London between 1800 and 1820. He engraved pictures of travel, historical and sporting subjects.
Edward Orme (b. 1774) was a London artist and printseller, serving as printseller in ordinary and engraver to King George III from 1799 to 1820, and to the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) from 1817 to 1830. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1801 and 1803.
Full publication information: “Fox Hunting, from a Picture by Morland, Engraved by C. Knight & H. Merke. Published & Sold Jan’y 1 1808 by Edw’d Orme, Printseller to the King. Engraver & Publisher, Bond Street, the corner of Brook Street, London.”
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 5, p. 275 (Knight); Vol. 6, p. 72 (Merke).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 20 June 2001. http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/111542/1.html (Knight); http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/114665/1.html (Merke); http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/111544/1.html (Orme) (6 April 2005).
Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the EnglishSchool: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. pp. 283-284 (Morland).
Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 3, pp. 369-370 (Morland).