Above the Savannah Bee Company on King Street sits a haven for sporting and nature lovers alike: The Sportsman’s Gallery, a fine art gallery specializing in wildlife, landscape and sporting art.
Owned by outdoor enthusiast Michael Paderewski, the gallery is full of paintings, drawings and sculptures by both living and deceased artists from around the world. Browsing the works, you’re as likely to find a painting of elephants on the African savanna as you are an image of a black bear on a Rocky Mountain slope.
Paderewski opened the gallery because he’s genuinely passionate about the outdoor lifestyle (and, it goes without saying, fine art). “I’m an avid fly fisherman—I used to guide in college, and I’m very active in outdoor endeavors,” he says.
He originally established The Sportsman’s Gallery in Atlanta where it stayed for 15 years. Paderewski decided to move the gallery to Charleston in 2013, and it opened at its second floor King Street location that June. Paderewski has another, similarly focused gallery, Paderewski Fine Art, in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Between the two galleries, Paderewski represents about 50 artists—painters and sculptors, mainly, with a primary focus on hunting and fishing. “Everything from bird hunting to freshwater fly-fishing and flats fishing, and wildlife from around the world—our artists portray it all,” Paderewski says.
The Sportsman’s Gallery counts among its painters three former featured artists from the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE): Eldridge Hardie, Brett James Smith and Luke Frazier. This winter, the gallery will show the work of all three painters in a group show that runs from February 13 – 15. “I think this is a wonderful compilation of three artists who specialize in sporting and wildlife subjects,” Paderewski says.
“Each has a very distinct style. They fall into three generations of the genre: Luke is the youngest of the group, Brett is in the middle and Eldridge is the eldest.”
Hardie, who was born in 1940, has been painting since graduating from college in the early 1960s. The Denver-based artist is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest sporting painters living, and his works have frequently appeared in publications like Gray’s Sporting Journal, Pointing Dog Journal and Shooting Sportsman, among others. He’s also been the subject of several retrospective museum shows, including at the Wildlife Experience museum in Colorado and the National Bird Dog Museum in Tennessee.
Smith, who splits his time between Louisiana and Montana, is a former illustrator turned fine art painter who works primarily in oil and watercolor. He also creates etchings, a medium that he’s drawn to for its timelessness. “I would say that Hardie and Smith are reminiscent of the works of their forefathers, well-known American sporting artists like Ogden Pleissner and Aiden Ripley,” Paderewski says. Like Pleissner and Ripley, both Hardie and Smith are rooted in the realist, traditional style.
Frazier’s work, on the other hand, is more painterly. He’s been compared to Carl Rungius and Bob Kuhn, two great wildlife painters of the 20th century (both are now deceased). Frazier paints both sporting and wildlife subjects, drawing from his extensive travels around the world as well as his home state of Utah.
Often, Paderewski includes works by the deceased greats alongside the contemporary artists he’s showing, which allows visitors to see the line of influence. That will most likely be the case with this group show. “We always have a wide variety of both living and deceased artists,” says Paderewski.
Old or new, traditional or not, the important thing for The Sportsman’s Gallery when it comes to the artists they represent is quality. And Hardie, Smith and Frazier are all top-notch. “One reason we represent them, and what they’re known for—why they’re recognized in their respective fields—is that they all actively participate in these sports,” Paderewski says. “They all have firsthand knowledge of everything they portray. It makes their work very authentic.”
Elizabeth Pandolfi is a writer and editor living in Charleston.