William Smith was born around 1791. Little is known about his early life but he is first recorded as exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1817 with sporting and animal paintings from an address in Bessels Green in Sevenoaks, Kent. By 1820, he was living in New Millman Street, London from where he continued to exhibit. From 1827, he had a home in Pimley near Shrewsbury and then seems to have travelled around to paint. He is recorded in the 1841 census as being an artist, aged 50 and staying at an inn in South Molton, Devon together with his wife Susan, also aged 50.
Smith specialised in sporting and hunting scenes featuring horses and dogs and was part of an early movement of artists who capitalised on the growing popularity by the gentry for portraits of their favourite animals at work. He also painted a number of portraits and rustic landscapes. This sporting work features a white pony set in a landscape, standing next to a gamekeeper with a brown spaniel and a black dog (possibly an ancestor of the retriever), having just come back from a successful shoot. The gamekeeper wears a frock coat over a shirt with a yellow cravat and rests on what appears to be a blanket thrown over a style. He holds a musket rifle in his left hand and below, at his feet lays his yellow straw hat.
It was painted in 1831 at a time when England was just coming out of the Georgian era with the accession of William IV to the throne in 1830 and a few years before the advent of the Victorian period. This was also the year the Game Act was passed in England to protect game birds by establishing a close season when they could not be legally taken. The act also established the need for game licences and saw an increase in the appointment of gamekeepers by estates.
The painting is housed in a new, English made gilt frame which is in excellent condition.
|Image size||19.5 inches x 23.75 inches (49.5cm x 60.5cm)|
|Framed size||25.5 inches x 29.75 inches (65cm x 75.5cm)|