Heywood Hardy's A Hunting Morn is a nostalgic slice of Victorian English upper-class life, as a delicate young women teeters upon her steed awaiting departure for that day's hunt. Now outlawed in Britain, this traditional sport was once the passionate way of life of many members of the aristocracy, confined as they often were to their voluminous country estates with very little to do. Hardy flourished in the late nineteenth-century when there was an immense public appetite for his paintings and etchings of genre scenes, sporting subjects and reproductions of animal figures. After travelling to Paris as a young man, Hardy entered the Beaux Arts and was taught the art of battle paintings. Returning to England at the end of the 1860s, the artist made the rounds of the top country estates to paint the figurative reproductions of its occupants, studies of their animal menageries, and capture hunting scenes on canvas.
A Hunting Morn may well have been one of these commissions, and demonstrates the style in vogue at the middle to the end of the Victorian age. Hardy's use of soft pastel colors to highlight the vibrancy of nature and of the hunting party's attire is characteristic of his restrained and conservative style. No great innovator, Hardy's skill lay in combining popular techniques into a mosaic of styles. With the confident brushwork of the Impressionists and the compositional treatment of the British school of painting of his day, A Hunting Morn is Hardy's portfolio in paint, a calling card for his ability to intermingle styles. Within the frame the artist also demonstrates his abilities, featuring hunting hounds, horses, a gentle hint of romance, and the idyllic and season-less purity of an imagined English countryside.
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