By Charles Fergus
The Sporting Art of Eldridge Hardie presents the full panoply of this artist’s superb paintings plus a glimpse into his life, manner of working, and passion for upland hunting, angling and waterfowling. In coffee-table format, with flawless reproductions, the book does an excellent job conveying the spark and spirit with which Hardie invests his well-known and critically acclaimed paintings of hunting dogs, gamebirds, game cover, waterfowl, salmon rivers, trout streams and the people absorbed in the sporting world.
The book is loosely sectioned into topic areas such as “Southern Birds,” “Ruffed Grouse,” “Kansas,” “Red Grouse in Scotland,” “Dove Hunting,” “Our Labradors” and more. I was particularly fascinated by the spreads of pencil sketches that demonstrate how Hardie plans and develops his works. “Drawing Dogs,” for example, shows how he uses his art-school training to get the anatomy of hunting dogs just right. Such diligent background work brings a compelling verisimilitude to Hardie’s finished paintings, both oil and watercolor.
From the text we learn that Hardie was born and grew up in El Paso, Texas; lives in Denver, Colorado; has been painting full-time since 1968; and turned 79 in 2019. He has a deep appreciation for American artists such as Winslow Homer, Frank Benson and Ogden Pleissner. Although not from a sporting-oriented family, Hardie discovered a deep attraction to hunting and fishing and was encouraged by his father to explore this way of life.
The book includes a foreword by author Paul Schullery and a list of destinations where Hardie has fished, hunted and made his paintings as well as the titles of books he has illustrated. An introduction by Tom Davis is a bit puzzling for not having a byline (perhaps a typographical error). Also, I wish each painting had come with a date, to show Hardie’s evolution as an artist. These are minor glitches in what is otherwise a splendid book.
The Sporting Art of Eldridge Hardie is 216 pages, hardbound, and contains 150 paintings. Price is $75. For more information, visit eldridgehardie.com.