In Ambush

John MacAllan Swan, English, 1847 - 1910

Made in England, Europe


Oil on canvas

32 1/4 × 52 1/8 inches (81.9 × 132.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The William L. Elkins Collection, 1924

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Additional information:
  • PublicationBritish Painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Baldry was the first to point out that Swan's unusual sense of the distribution and spacing of his figures owed something to his study of Japanese art.1 According to his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, Swan contributed papers to the Proceedings of the Japanese Society, and his own collection of Japanese vases, bronzes, screens, drawings, color prints, and objects was formidable.2 A comparison with the painter Ganku's (1749/56-1838) Tiger by a Torrent (watercolor, 66 x 45” {168 x 114 cm.}, London, British Museum) shows that although the compositions are not at all similar, Swan's sensibility is much closer to the Japanese artist's than, for example, to that of Stubbs (1724-1806) or Landseer (1803-1873).

    In the 1890s the Zoological Society owned a number of leopards, thus identifying these particular ones is not possible. In Ambush is a version of Swan's East African Leopards in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (East African Leopards, 1896, oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 50” {76 x 127 cm.} Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales).

    Richard Dorment, from British Painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: From the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Century (1986), p. 391.

    1. A. L. Baldry', Drawings of J.M. Swan, R.A. (London and New York, 1905).
    2. Catalogue of … Chinese and Japanese Works of Art, the Property of the Late J. M. Swan, Esq., R.A., Sotheby's, February 19-20, 1912, lots 158-311.

    Catalogue of Paintings in the Private Collection of W. L. Elkins. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1887-1900, vol. 1, no. 48, repro.