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The Hillstrom Museum of Art: Animals and Sporting, the Penkhus Collection

Whether you’re a dedicated patron of the arts or not, the Hillstrom Museum of Art here on campus (located on the lower level of the campus center) is an essential Gustavus experience. The new Animal and Sporting Paintings in the Penkhus Collection are phenomenal and definitely worth the visit. The Penkhus Collection consists of sixty-one different paintings featuring the topics of foxhunting, racing, livestock, and pets. During my class break last Wednesday, I was able to stroll through it and find many thought-provoking paintings. Though I’ll only touch on a few of them in this article, that does not mean they are the only must-see paintings at the exhibit. There are lots of interesting works of art in the collection; I highly reccomend checking out the collection to experience it for yourself to find out which paintings you love!

1. Foxhunting

The first painting that really caught my attention is titled “Fox” by Alfred Duke, a British artist who primarily painted foxhounds. It is a black and white oil/watercolor painting of a fox next to a tree and surrounded by grassy shrubs. It also includes tiny flowers sprouting on some of the shrubs. While the setting may not seem overly exciting, the most interesting part lies in the fox’s facial expression. It stopped me in my tracks. The fox is staring directly toward the viewer with his piercing, luminescent eyes with his tongue sticking out, lifting his right paw. I felt as though the curious fox coming right toward me. Even though “Fox” is just a painting, it feels so realistic due to the animal’s presence and poise.

2. Flat Racing

Another painting that I enjoyed was “Florizell II” by British painter, Alfred Wheeler. It is a light, pastel-colored oil painting that includes a man riding a horse, amongst others in the background. From what I can tell, the man riding the horse is a jockey at it—due to his polished uniform and upright posture. This particular painting stood out to me because it reminded me of my hometown in Shakopee, Minnesota. Back home, I live near Canterbury Park, which is known for its exciting horse races. “Florizell II” brought back memories of sitting in the stands and watching the action unfold. This is a calmer, and more sophisticated piece, that surely brings nostalgia back.

3. Livestock

After strolling through numerous images, I came across one that inflicted overwhelming love. This was “Two Harnessed Cart Horses” by John Frederick Herring, Sr., another British man. (Side note: most of the paintings in the exhibit were made by British artists who depicted typical life in England during the 18th century, how cool!) What really impressed me about this painting was the interaction between two horses in a stable. One chestnut horse snuggles up to a white horse. It evokes a subtle heartwarming feeling. That is the wonderful aspect of art: ithe ability to create feelings within us that we never thought we had, like the feeling of love.

4. Pets

The last painting that really struck me was “Jack Russell Terrier” by Edwin Loder. Just like how art can make us feel happy inside, it can also break us down into sadness. This portrait of a terrier with red eyes and drooped ears inflicts pain for the viewer. You might wonder why this cute little dog gives the impression that he is depressed. It creates a cliffhanger because we never really know anything beyond the art. Art is all just based our own interpretation, so we may never know the truth. For me, “Jack Russell Terrier” was a bit saddening because normally, dogs make people happy but that’s not what happened here. The range of emotions one can have after witnessing art is truly eye opening.

The exhibit Animal and Sporting Paintings from the Penkhus Collection: The Very English Ambiance of It All is on display at The Hillstrom Museum of Art from September 12th through November 6th, 2016. 

Hi, my name is Monali Bhakta and I am a freshman at Gustavus Adolphus College. I am a Biology and English double major. While I love to learn about the origins of life, I also like to write in my free time. Something I really like to do is listen to all kinds of music; it does not matter what language it is or what genre it is. I also have a passion for knowledge because there is always something to learn in this vast, undiscovered world.
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