Edmund H. Osthaus (1858-1928) On Point
signed "Edmund Osthaus" lower left
oil on canvas, 24 by 36 in.
Berry-Hill Gallery, New York and Christie's, New York labels on back
Benjamin D. Phillips was the original owner of this painting. A successful businessman, Phillips inherited and ran
the T.W. Phillips Gas & Oil Company based in Butler, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He attended Hiram College in Ohio, and was a generous philanthropist in his time. His memoir and letters were privately published in 1969 as B. D. Phillips: Life and Letters.
Phillips owned an uncut sheet of the Inverted Jenny, one of the rarest and most collectible American stamps. In the stamp collecting world, where Phillips is noted as one of the leading collectors of all time, it is remembered, “When the Weills presented their $4.07 million offer [for his stamp collection], Phillips was attired in a hunting jacket and cap with a Purdey shotgun slung over his shoulder. Upon hearing the offer, Phillips responded ‘Sounds good, boys,’ and walked out of the room. If this account is accurate, the Weills acquired one of the greatest, if not the greatest, United States collections of all time, and the owner went off to shoot ducks.”
The artist Edmund Henry Osthaus was born in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1858, the son of a prosperous farmer who subsequently emigrated to Toledo, Ohio. Osthaus studied at the Royal Academy of the Arts in Dusseldorf from 1874 to 1882 with Andreas Muller, Peter Jansen, Eduard von Gebhardt, Ernst Deger, and wildlife and landscape painter Christian Kroner. In 1883, after studying painting for six years, Edmund Osthaus became an instructor at the Toledo Academy of Fine Arts. He served as the director from 1886 to 1893, refining his painting technique and pursuing his passions: hunting and fishing.
In 1893 Osthaus dedicated his full attention to painting, shooting, and field trials. He was a charter member of the National Field Trial Association established in Newton, North Carolina, in 1895. “Edmund Osthaus followed field trials from the fall prairie chicken trials in Canada to the important quail trials in the South in mid-winter, judging, sketching, and sometimes entering his dogs. He was a handsome, powerfully built man,” and his artistic talent combined with his love of dogs enabled him to capture the essence of the focused working dog while depicting them in precise anatomical detail.
“Any painter who paints for shooting men had better be a shooting man himself, for no one is more jealously critical of detail than the man who knows guns and dogs and game... Edmund Osthaus, who trained and shot over his own setters and pointers, transformed oil paint into dog flesh quivering under the stress of a point.”
This painting, depicting three hunting dogs who have found their quarry, is among Osthaus’ finest work. The exquisite detail in the faces of the dogs, and the quality of the balanced, painterly landscape in the background yields two paintings in one: a landscape and a stunning sporting dog painting, with all the hallmarks of Edmund Osthaus at his best.
Provenance: Benjamin D. Phillips Collection, Butler, Pennsylvania
Dana Corporation Collection, acquired from Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York in 1979
Private Collection, Pennsylvania, acquired from Christie’s New York, December 8, 2005, lot 117
Literature: Kay and George Evans, “Dogs that Live Forever,” Field & Stream, Vol. LXXV, No. 2, June 1970, pp. 234-240.
“Inverted Jenny: The World’s Most Famous Stamp,” Siegel Auction Galleries, accessed November 20, 2018, https://invertedjenny.com/owner/70
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