Celebrating the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
We are ringing in the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with pups in art. See how portrait greats like John Singer Sargent captured canines and take a browse through the beloved and weird breeds that have made it into paintings.
When you are ready to paint a pooch of your own, Jean Haines’ Watercolor Animals Video Download will be all that you need to explore where medium and subject matter meet in dog portrait adorableness.
Great Artists, Gorgeous Dogs
As with all painting, the better the artist, the better the outcome. Several top artists throughout history have proven to be a dab hand at painting man’s best friend.
John Singer Sargent painted several figures holding their beloved dogs or with them sitting nearby.
Sargent painted English royalty as well, with pooches in pride of place. The 1904 portrait of the Duke of Marlborough’s family, features the man of the house, his wife and three children, and two of their Blenheim toy spaniels.
In one instance, for special client and close friend Louise Burckhardt, Sargent painted a dog solo in his own portrait. Full disclosure, Pointy, Burckhardt’s beloved pet was (gasp!) a mixed-breed mutt.
Dogs, the Zorn Edition
Anders Zorn is another famed portrait painter whose work includes a good many of his sitters’ pets. He painted Virginia Bacon, who was also painted by Sargent a year earlier sans dog, with her collie in 1897.
Zorn also painted a sumptuous watercolor of sitter Clarence Barker with his protective canine in 1885.
A portrait of Madame Ashley in 1920 shows not one but two of her dogs hidden in plain sight.
Zorn’s golden watercolor portrait of toddler Christian De Falbe is also one to note with its stunning brushstrokes and, of course, a loyal St. Bernard on babysitting duty.
Beloved, Funny and Weird
Once you scratch the surface, you begin to see dogs everywhere in art. Here are some of the highlights.
Uh, who knew the Borzoi was such a popular dog breed? Apparently everyone. I counted more than a dozen paintings or drawings in the short time I was able to devote to the endeavor but my favorite is by far the chic portrait of leading lady Sarah Bernhardt in 1876 by Georges Clairin.
Sir Edwin Landseer was a British nineteenth-century painter and sculptor and one of the most popular artists of his day. He is most well known for his depictions of animals including stags and horses, but the animal most near and dear to his heart was the canine if his self-portrait is any indication.
Landseer also painted several portraits of dogs and ascribing human qualities to their looks. Dignity and Impudence is just one example but, if my time at the dog parts of today are any indication, he’s not far off.
The most famous artwork in terms of dog kitsch would have to be the late 19th-century paintings of dogs playing poker by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. Originally part of an advertising campaign to sell cigars, these paintings took on a life of their own in terms of memes over the decades.
Coolidge painted eighteen riffs on the theme of anthropomorphized dogs but only 11 of them feature the “iconic” dogs around a card table.
To bring it back to the present, consider George Rodrigue’s blue dog series of paintings. Rodrigue painted dozens of variations of his monochrome canine. The works skyrocketed the Louisiana artist into fame in the United States in the 1990s.
He became a topic of 12 books and two retrospectives, one of which at the New Orleans Museum of Art broke attendance records for most visitors to a contemporary artist’s exhibition. All due to one blue dog or, as they would say in New Iberia, the loup-garou.
Paint Your Favorite Breed
Now that we’ve explored the depths of puppy love in art, wouldn’t you like to try your hand at the fun? Capture the curious, eager expression of your dog when he wants to play, or the excited swish-swish of her tail when you tell her you are going on a walk.
Jean Haines shows you everything you want to know in her Watercolor Animals Video Download. Use the skills you learn to make your pooch the star of the show or simply include a dog in your next painting project because dogs make everything better. Enjoy!