Local artist commissioned to paint Antrim’s legendary wolfhound
TWELVE years ago Cullybackey man John R Moore swapped the butcher’s knife for the paint brush as he decided to carve out a career as an artist.
The local artist worked as a butcher for 21 years before opting to pursue his passion for painting.
For his latest commission, John was tasked by Shane’s Castle Game Fair Director Albert Titterington to produce a special painting of a wolfhound to mark the 400th anniversary of the guardian of the old Antrim Castle- the Massereene Hound.
This painting of a Wolfhound called Aramis captures on canvas a likeness that could well have been that of the Massereene Hound itself, as it rests in grounds of Clotworthy House.
The painting of the Massereene Hound will be unveiled at the Game Fair at Shane’s Castle and then, hang on loan, in the gallery at Clotworthy House.
John said: “I was commissioned to paint this Wolfhound and I thought it would be a great idea for a painting and I jumped right into it.
“The painting of the Wolfhound was from photographs, usually I would meet the dogs. There are always owners wanting to have their dog painted and I do have an interest in sport dogs.
“When you meet the dog in person you get to see it’s personality and it means I can take plenty of my own photographs. I would maybe take 100 but only need the right one.”
But how does a butcher move into art?
He added: “I was a butcher for 21 years but I always drew and painted and then when my father retired I decided to give this a bash.
“It is a living but it is hard especially with the recession but you have to put the hours in and make sure the work gets done. It’s more than just a hobby it is a job. Some paintings can take anything from five days to five years to complete, although if there is a deadline you stick to that, especially if someone is waiting.”
John was also commissioned by Albert to paint two salmon to be auctioned off.
“It is the first ever fish I have painted, I used a series of sketches photographs and even a frozen fish to make sure I got it right,” John said.
He will also be displaying many of his paintings at the Game Fair taking place at Shane’s Castle on July 7 and 8, giving people a chance to see the fantastic paintings by the renowned artist.
“This is a good chance to display my work and get to meet people. There will be a lot of people there and it is always interesting to see what people like, nobody is the same.”
There is no doubt the painting that has caught the attention of those involved with the Game Fair.
Now as with all good Irish legends, many of them featuring hounds both animate and ghostly, there are variations to the Wolfhound story but places and people in the story are completely factual and so obviously is the statue which for 400 years has guarded either Antrim Castle or Antrim town.
One version takes us back to Antrim Castle and its beautiful woodland estate, the idyllic home for Sir Hugh Clotworthy in the early 1600s, as Albert added: “Sir Hugh’s young bride, Lady Marion Clotworthy found life at Antrim Castle a lonely and miserable existence. Her husband was often absent on military business and she pined for the excitement and glamour of her girlhood days at Carrickfergus Castle.
“Marian whiled away long hours wandering through the woodlands of the castle grounds. On one of her solitary strolls, she was confronted by a huge, savage wolf. At once the beast sprang at her. Marian screamed and collapsed in a faint.
“Upon awakening, her gaze fell upon an incredible sight. The wolf lay dead, badly savaged. Standing guard by her side was an Irish Wolfhound, itself badly injured. Together they made there way back to the castle where she tended her protector. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The shaggy guardian escorted Lady Marian on her daily rambles. The close companionship was set to save many lives.
“One stormy night, armed enemies crept stealthily towards the castle. Just as they were about to attack, A wild barking alerted those asleep within the castle. In the midst of fierce firing, an agonised howl - as if from a beast - was heard. The castle was saved but daylight revealed a trail of blood that led to the wolfhound’s corpse.
“By encasing the hound in stone and mounting it upon one of the castle’s front towers, Sir Hugh shrewdly calculated the effigy’s potential to ward off hostile but superstitious enemies. An added insurance, he propagated a belief that if ever the statue should be removed, the Massereene family would ‘speedily decay’.”
Later alterations to the castle caused the statue to be taken down, initially to a wall of the estate and subsequently to the leisure centre’s lawn and now back into the new gardens of Clotworthy House. The castle quickly decayed after a fire in 1922 and the Massereene family has removed itself to England.”
Fast forward to 2012 and the Massereene Hound is captured on canvas for future generations to admire and marvel at the legend with a painting of a Wolfhound called Aramis.
John has produced a very fitting tribute to mark the anniversary of the carving of the Massereene Hound.
As part of the celebration of the Massereene Hound’s 40th anniversary special classes for Irish Wolfhounds sponsored by Chudleys is taking place at the Pedigree Dog Show organised by the Northern Ireland Field & Show Society at the fair on Sunday, July 8 and you will be able to see up to 20 or more of these fine animals in the flesh.
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Weather for Antrim
Thursday 23 May 2013
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