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The Hunted Slaves

Richard Ansdell1861

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Painted in 1861, the picture is a powerful indictment of slavery in the United States at that time. It shows two slaves who have escaped into the wilderness only to be hunted down by a pack of savage dogs, from which the husband is heroically defending his terrified wife. The picture dates from the same year as the outbreak of the American Civil War. One consequence of the War for Britain was that it prevented the export of raw cotton from American plantations, causing a “cotton famine” and leading to hardship in the mill towns of Lancashire. Ansdell donated 'The Hunted Slaves' to a lottery held to raise money for the relief of the famine, and the winner then presented it to the Corporation of Liverpool.

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Details

  • Title: The Hunted Slaves
  • Creator: Richard Ansdell
  • Date Created: 1861
  • tag / style: Richard Ansdell; hunted slaves; slaves; slavery; man; woman; dog; terror; animal; axe; attack; hiding; fleeing; escape' protect; cornfield; teeth; chains
  • Physical Dimensions: w3080 x h1841 mm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Richard Ansdell (1815 - 1885) was the most successful 19th-century Liverpool- born British painter. His father, a maker of ships' pulleys, died young and Ansdell attended the Liverpool Bluecoat School, then still a charitable institution for orphans and destitute children. He trained under a local portrait-painter from the age of 13 and later moved to London where he painted portraits, historical subjects and landscapes and specialised in animal painting in which large dogs, stags and sheep predominate. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1861 - the year that this picture was painted, and a full Royal Academician in 1870. Ansdell worked extensively for the local Lancashire aristocracy - in particular Lord Derby and Lord Sefton. Several paintings done for the latter are now in the Walker Art Gallery's collection.
  • Additional artwork information: Longfellow's poem 'The Slave in the Dismal Swamp'(first published in 1842) and Ansdell's painting are powerful indictments of the savage treatment which black slaves suffered at the hands of their masters in the Southern States of the USA. The poet's description of the slave crouching 'in the rank and tangled grass like a wild beast in his lair' strikes an apt comparison with this painting, since Ansdell was primarily a painter of animals and hunting scenes. The concept of the 'Noble Savage', at one with nature and with higher moral standards than so-called 'Civilised' men, had a long currency in Western art and literature. This theme was clearly central to an earlier pair of paintings attacking slavery, George Morland's 'African Hospitality' and 'The Slave Trade'. Executed in about 1791, these pictures contrasted the kindness and generosity with which Africans treated ship-wrecked Europeans with the barbarity of the slavers, who dragged the natives away from Africa to a life of toil on the American cotton fields. When it was exhibited, Ansdell's painting received an enthusiastic review in the Art Journal.
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by Gilbert Winter Moss in 1863

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