With the Polo at Cowdray, the South Downs on the horizon and racing at Goodwood, there’s no doubting we live in horse country, which may explain why equine pictures do so well in our auctions.
Nearly everyone has heard of George Stubbs, recognised as the finest painter of horses in the artistic canon. Other great names among British artists include John Frederick Herring Senior, Alfred Munnings, Cecil Alden and John Skeaping.
Equal talents in this discipline may be found across Europe and further afield. Of the great animal painters, few compare with John James Audubon and his famous and eye-wateringly expensive The Birds of America. However, news of a remarkable set of paintings to be sold in October sheds the spotlight on the remarkable art of Indian painters commissioned to paint animals, birds, plants and architecture by the East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries.
For a long time, what are known as the Company School paintings were credited to the officials who commissioned them rather than the artists, but the record is now slowly being set straight, first by an exhibition at the Wallace Collection and soon by the auction itself.
My favourite work is a painting of a Great Indian Fruit Bat in full flight. It was painted by an artists called Bhawani Das.
It is heartening to see that the public interest surrounding these works that has arisen from the auction is helping the real artists to get due recognition at last.