Norfolk artists masters of painting dogs

The world's top annual sale of dog portraits, in New York next week, includes works by the two leading Victorian artists in the field and kennel who were both raised in Norfolk. Ian Collins reports.

A dog-fight between the two most popular Victorian painters of prized mutts may have been particularly up-close and personal since both artists were born just a few miles apart in Norfolk in the mid-1840s.

A Bonhams sale called Dogs in Show and Field, to be held in New York on Wednesday, contains nine pictures of hounds, spaniels and terriers by Blofield-raised John Emms with estimates of up to �200,000 at auction.

But the world's biggest auction of canine portraits also confirms the special regard in which Great Yarmouth-born Charles Burton Barber, Emms's junior by two years, was held in mid-19th century society. For he could count on royal patronage from the widowed Queen Victoria.

A number of portraits by Charles Burton Barber remain in the Royal Collection, but one picture formerly in the Windsor Castle inventory and a personal possession of the monarch is now on offer in America. The likeness of a beloved smooth-coated border collie Sharp could be snapped up for under �4,000.

Born into a very artistic family, in Blofield in 1843, John Emms's beautiful use of paint brilliantly evoked canine coats and characters, most especially in shooting and hunting dogs – and best of all wire-haired fox terriers. A large – 3ft by 5ft – canvas of eight of these perky creatures in a kennel carries the top estimate of �200,000 in the pending New York sale.

During the early 1900s Emms suffered a stroke which left him unable to work. He took to drinking and his life ultimately went to the dogs.

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To see more examples of these Norfolk artists' work see the EDP Sunday supplement in this Saturday's EDP.

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