Newbold Hough Trotter (1827-1898) On the Alert Oil on Canvas

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Newbold Hough Trotter (1827-1898)

On the Alert

Oil on Canvas

Canvas size: 30'' x 42''

Framed size: 35 3/8" x 47 1/4"

Signed l.l.: N.H. Trotter

Provenance: Newman Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection of Meyer and Vivian Potamkin.

 

After serving in the Civil War, and later attending to business interests in Philadelphia, Trotter turned his attentions to painting in 1867.

Philadelphia's prominence as the cultural, commercial, and scientific center of the newly United States enabled Trotter to pursue his passion for natural history and, as can be seen in this spectacular work, he primarily concentrated his studies upon the depiction of animal life. Public fascination with wild life had been fueled by the foundation of two groundbreaking Philadelphia societies, entirely devoted to the exploration and cataloguing of the natural world. The first was the Academy of Natural Sciences, which was founded in 1812 and opened its doors to the public in 1828. The second, Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest zoo in the country, received its charter in 1859 and after the Civil War opened in 1874. It is likely that these great foundations provided Trotter with the means of seeing otherwise unobtainable specimens of animals. In this engaging painting entitled On the Alert, a lion and his mate are depicted. As is characteristic of the genre, the animals are placed against a mysterious and somewhat desolate background with the purpose of emphasizing their exoticism. Trotter convincingly portrays not only the muscular beauty of each animal but also their innate character as each stares fixedly upon an object beyond our view.

This work is an excellent example of American nineteenth-century wild life painting, and reflects the interest such subject matter was garnering among the general public as natural history museums and zoos came into existence. It has a fine provenance having once been in the collection of Meyer and Vivian Potamkin, prolific and passionate collectors of the finest of Philadelphian painting and furniture.