Mabel Hollams was an animal painter who specialised in canine and equestrian portraits, who studied at the Frank Calderon School of Animal Painting, in South Kensington and at the Atelier Julian in Paris, the contemporary 'mecca' for animal painters.
She was a very naturalistic painter with the coat and hair painted as if one was looking at a photograph. One of her trademarks was to paint the dog or horse on board, sometimes varnished, with the grain of the wood showing through, and invariably with no background and the animal’s name on the board.
She worked with great speed satisfying her many commissions. She is alleged rarely to have discussed money for a painting, but her butler always waited to bid farewell to clients with a silver salver on which they were expected to place £25 in cash. In 1899 she was elected an associate of the Society of Women Artists and by 1902 her qualities had been quickly recognised and she made a full member.
She exhibited extensively including, 8 paintings at the Royal Academy, 19 at the Society of Women Artists and 2 at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. In June 1929 she had “A Loan Exhibition of Oil Paintings of Horse and Dogs”, of 66 paintings, at the New Bond Street Walker’s Galleries. It was a remarkable tribute 54 paintings being kindly lent, by many titled and wealthy owners of show champions, pets and famous kennels.
In 1937 the New Bond Street dealers Arthur Ackermann & Son paid tribute again with, “A Loan Exhibition of Oil Paintings of Horses and Dogs” of 38 paintings.
Her patrons included the Earls of Sefton, Beatty & Cornwallis. Lord Cornwallis was the Master of the Linton Beagles and she painted him with his beagles. She also painted for the royals, one of her last oils (in 1963) was that of Princess Alexandra Dutchess of Kent with a young friend on horseback.
She is well documented in William Secord’ s books, “Dog Painting 1840 –1940”, and “Dog Painting The European Breeds”, where he reproduces several of her paintings and writes “an artist who is known for horse as well as dog portraits”.
The National Trust property at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire displays one of her works.