Collector’s Focus: Sporting Art
Over 360 years ago Izaak Walton wrote The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation. He wrote, “Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery element were made for wise men to contemplate, and fools to pass by without consideration.” He was beaten to the punch in describing the pleasures of fishing with a rod and line by Dame Juliana Berners who wrote A
Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle in 1496. Dame Juliana wrote, “If the angler catches fish no one is happier in spirit than he.”
Often the object of the angler’s pursuit is a trout, a thing of beauty in itself. Frank Divita’s
studio overlooks the beauty of the Flathead Valley in Montana. His family emigrated from Italy to Canada and finally to Montana when he was a boy. He showed an early interest in zoology and art. Well-known for his sculptures of birds, he also sculpts gamefish, of which
Rainbow Rising is an example. He models the sculptures in clay and then oversees every step of the bronze casting process.
Brett James Smith was introduced to quail hunting by his grandfather, who also took him camping and fishing. He soon learned the intricacies of the sporting life. His father was an illustrator whose work appeared on the covers of early sporting magazines. In art school he realized he wasn’t being taught the skills he needed for his chosen field of commercial illustration. Later, while pursuing a career in the field he decided to try his hand at easel painting and the rest is history. Smith says, “What is important in these outdoor paintings is mood, a feeling of how things were and still can be. The idea is to convey the natural ruggedness of the sport without missing the subtle nuances that make the experience personal.”
He strives to put the viewer in the scene whether it’s a scene from the past or one that Dame Juliana would be familiar with today. In
Trout in Autumn the angler casts his line above the gently flowing stream that reflects the changing colors of the trees.
Arthur Shilstone, who is in his 90s, paints every day. Fred Polhemus, who wrote Arthur Shilstone — A Lifetime of Drawing & Painting,
says, “Shilstone creates mood by blurring details in mists and skies. Tight details, such as fins and feathers, are not a priority in his work. He uses his brush to show men pursuing game and to capture a body of water at a particular time of day, bathing the scene in the light and rich colors of the season. His goal is to create a sense of place and a place of sense in which sight, sound, look and the changing light
and shadows crystallize the moment.” One of those moments is captured in his watercolor, The Bass Fishermen—the gray sky reflected in the water and the weathered tree trunks leading the eye back to the angler about to land his catch.
Walton wrote that he had abandoned work for the day and “gone a-fishing.” Blair Buswell depicts a boy and his dog pursuing a different sport, Goin’ Huntin’. He says, “I have always been fascinated with the human figure. I like the challenge of capturing the gesture, mood and expression of my subject…i try to combine all of these elements together to bring a sense of life to my work.”
Throughout this special collector’s focus, readers will find scenes depicting the beauty of sporting art from leading Western artists.
Bringing many of the West’s best sporting artists under one roof this February is the 38th annual Southeastern Wildlife
Exposition. “The quality of work in the fine art gallery is unsurpassed and encompasses genres from sporting art, North American big game and African wildlife to nature inspired landscapes,” says SEWE’S art curator Natalie Henderson. “Over 2,500 original paintings and sculptures will be on exhibit and range in style from traditional realism to contemporary interpretations of the finest wildlife art.”
On view at Vanessa Rothe Fine Art, Waiting for the Drivers by Eric Bowman depicts an adolescent boy waiting for men to flush out the animals they are hunting. “Bowman captures this moment with his iconic use of vivid brushwork, colors and light,” says gallery owner Vanessa Rothe. “Known for his thick paint and wavy strokes that bring movement to the work, Bowman has created a stunning work about the hunt.”
1. The Sportsman’s Gallery, Trout in Autumn, oil on canvas, 18 x 24", by Brett James Smith.
2. Sportsman’s Palette, The Bass Fishermen, watercolor, 18 x 23", by Arthur Shilstone. 3. Legacy Gallery, Goin’ Huntin’, bronze, 18 x 13", by Blair Buswell. 4. Trailside Galleries, Rainbow Rising, bronze, 10.5", by Frank Divita. 5. Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Dropping in Mallards, watercolor on paper, 21 x 28", by Jim Killen. 6. Vanessa Rothe Fine Art, Waiting for the Drivers, oil on linen board, 16 x 12”, by Eric Bowman. 7. Vanessa Rothe Fine Art, Atlanta Hall, oil on linen, 30 x 40”, by Sam Robinson. 8. Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, A Point of Honor, bronze, 14 x 20", by Walter Matia.