Catalog Essay | October 24, 2019 | Lot 97
Percival Rosseau was born in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana in 1859. His father and two older brothers were killed during the Civil War (1861-1865). During the Mississippi Campaign, the Union army led by General W.T. Sherman destroyed the family plantation. Rosseau and his sister were rescued by a slave and raised by a family friend in Kentucky. In Kentucky, Rosseau’s guardian taught him to fish and shoot.
As a businessman and entrepreneur, he was worked in several professions including a cowboy and a failed venture in lumber. He later owned a lucrative import business that allowed him to retire at age 35. It was at this stage that his professional career as an artist began. He left the import business to his partner and made the journey to Paris to study at the Académie Julian.
Rosseau trained in the Paris ateliers of Jules Lefevre, Tony Robert-Fleury and Charles Herman-Leon. Mainly, these artists were known for their portraits and figure studies of classical subjects. Following in the footsteps of his teachers, in 1900 and in 1901 Rosseau exhibited “Ariadne” and “Antiope” at the Paris Salon. In 1903, however, frustrated with the trials of working with figure models, Rosseau submitted a painting of “Diana.” He introduced two Irish wolfhounds to the composition running alongside the huntress. He received such high praise for the wolfhounds, that he decided to submit a painting of just two dogs for the 1904 Salon. This was met with critical acclaim and the painting sold within one day of exhibition, launching Rosseau’s career as a painter of dogs.
This launched Rosseau’s career as a sporting artist and a painter of dogs. He remained in France until 1915 but made frequent trips back to the United States to fulfill commissions and participate in exhibitions. His paintings were, and continue to be, in high demand. At the onset of World War I, he moved back to the States where he settled in Lyme, Connecticut. In October 1922 the International Studio called Percival Leonard Rosseau “…the greatest painter of dogs in America.”1
During this time, one of his most prominent patrons was Percy Rockefeller. In the early 1920s the Rockefeller family was building a residence at Overhills, an exclusive hunting club in North Carolina. In 1927, receipts for contractor payments at Overhills detail payments made to construct a cottage for Rosseau on the property. Rockefeller encouraged Rosseau to use his dogs as models.
The present lot is a rare example of a painting by Rosseau depicting four pointers. The size and complexity of the canvas indicate that this work was intended for exhibition or for an important private commission. The landscape is difficult to identify with certainty but based on the artist’s biography this work was likely painted in Connecticut or at Overhill
Rosseau was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Lotos Club in New York City, and the Lyme Art Association. He exhibited at the Paris Salon, the Lyme Art Association, and prominent galleries in New York City and elsewhere. His works are included in numerous notable private and public collections including The Orlando Museum of Art, The Columbus Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Rosseau died in Fayetteville, North Carolina on November 29, 1937.