Have you ever seen an incredibly large painting and wondered how the artist knew what they would be painting before taking on such a large project? Artists often begin with a series of studies, sometimes called sketches, which allow them to practice before committing to a larger work.
The NSLM collection includes a series of nine portraits of hounds by German/American artist Gustav Muss-Arnolt (1858 – 1927) done in preparation for a larger piece The Meadow Brook Hounds Meet at the Old Westbury Pond (c. 1885), commissioned by August Belmont, Jr. (1853 – 1924), acting Master of Foxhounds for the Meadow Brook Hunt during the 1884 – 1885 season and builder of New York’s famous Belmont Park racetrack.
Muss-Arnolt was a talented painter of dogs – and definitely what we would call a “dog person.” He was a noted dog show judge and an important part of the American Kennel Club and many other early American dog clubs.
The paintings were recently put back on view in the Museum’s Vine Hill Galleries and have fabulous names like “Matchless,” “Chanticleer,” and “Baronet.” These pieces were donated to the NSLM in 1973 by Mr. Harry T. Peters, Jr. whose father, Harry T. Peters, Sr., was MFH of the Meadow Brook Hunt from 1926 – 1946.
The paintings are interesting because they not only show the artistic process used by Muss-Arnolt, but because of several connections they share with pieces in our book collection. In the main reading room of our library is a book entitled The Story of American Foxhunting vol. II by J.B. Van Urk.
Van Urk’s book includes both an illustration of the hound pieces, as well as an image of the final version of The Meadow Brook Hounds Meet at the Old Westbury Pond. Can you spot which hounds from the studies are in the larger piece?
Connections like these abound in our collections, and we continue to have fun discovering them!
Frances Monroe is the Membership & Visitor Engagement Coordinator at the National Sporting Library & Museum. She helps visitors engage more fully with the Library and Museum collections through participation in events, programs, and tours. She also coordinates the NSLM’s volunteer program.