Arthur Shilstone’s prolific career as a Master of Sporting Art produced a vast and diverse inventory of watercolor sporting scenes. Any Sporting Art enthusiast can find their sense of place within his body of work. With such a large inventory, however, we recognize the potential challenge of pinpointing that one exact scene (or 2, or 3….) that brings a distinct ‘place to be sensed’ to a collection. We’ve decided to break down the collection into a few distinct categories and dive into the sparkling waters and abundant forests of a few select pieces. Today, we’ll be focusing on Shilstone’s masterful representation of figures.
One of the most important factors (in our opinion) in a sporting painting (or any painting with a figure subject, for that matter) is whether or not the collectors can “see” themselves in the setting. When you get right down to it, most sporting paintings have the spirit of a landscape painting, with the added enrichment of sportsmen enjoying their pastimes. As we may have said before, the heart & soul of sporting art is about the sportsman’s relationship to the land.
So of course, masterfully rendered figures are quite important in our book – it’s what takes a painting from being “just a landscape with a person stuck somewhere in the scene carrying a fly rod or a shotgun” to a true sporting art work.
Perhaps thanks to his background in commercial illustration, Arthur Shilstone has truly mastered the representation of figures in sporting art. His sportsmen are some of the best we’ve ever seen in our niche of sporting art, and are just one part of what makes his watercolors so great.
Fishing the Pool Below the Falls is one of our favorites when it comes to Shilstone’s representation of figures. Firstly, the piece itself embodies the energetic yet peaceful solitude of the pastime in a way that almost feels escapist. But the athletic stance of the angler and all the subtle details in the figure, from the crease of the waders at the knee to the way the vest swings from the angler’s shoulders, is what makes this particular piece a stand-out in this collection.
Not only can we hear the roaring rush of the falls and feel the chilly spring air, but thanks to Arthur’s masterful rendition of the angler, we can feel the weight of the icy water in the pool and understand the angler’s concentration as he casts the line to the rapids.
In A Perfect Day, it’s the lighting for us – what makes the shooting sportsman in the foreground stand out in this piece is the detailed contrast in value on his clothes. This detailing combined with the subtle washes and the addition of a second shooting sportsman & gundog in the background renders this piece anything but flat, and is what makes the figures burst with life.
A Strike from the Canoe is one of those paintings that shows how Arthur can do so much with so little – this time, the “little” being the figures. Even though the angler and guides are, square-inch-wise, such a small part of the painting, they fill the scene to the edges with action and emotion – we can feel the heaviness of the anticipation in the still water as the angler tugs at the line while the others, braced and balanced, eagerly watch.
Check out the gallery below for some more of our favorite paintings of Arthur’s with masterfully rendered sportsmen, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!