Everyone has a secret love in art, and mine is horses and dogs, hunting scenes and other nostagic anglophilia (more Byron then the Beatles. Taking that in mind, Christie’s “Sporting Art” Auction, to be held at London in the next couple of weeks, is almost too rich a feast for these eyes. Dozens of pictures of horses, dogs and bedraggled foxes, mostly painted in a style that reminds us how much repressed sensuality used to go into upper class hobbies like gardening or pets.

The chief hobby of that time was imperialism, and this work that including only very rich. The landscapes are meant to indicate ownership, hunting as a blood sport is aristocratic and cruel (compare these to the Winslow Homer painting The Fox and The Snow–then think of Wilde’s bon mot about hunting, he said that to make those with money realize that they were hunting status and not food.) The boys shown here as groomsmen violate childhood labour standards, and buying them now has all sorts of middle class wish fulfilment. You can imagine a clever american buyer snapping up most of the lots, and selling them to faux irish pubs from Boston to Berkley.

They are second rate Stubbs but painted with such care that it is hard not to at least admire them. No one could match how he pushed a beasts muscle and bone into the edges of skin–the sheer love of flesh with out sentiment in his work is haunting, the horses haunches are where fortunes are made and to honouring them was honouring a novel and charming venture (much like marriage or fatherhood). These cannot match that intensity in technical skill, but in spirit they almost match and in some ways exceed.