Capturing the essence of dog–the old fashioned way
Way before photos of cats and dogs ruled the interwebs, those furry creatures found their way into artists’ studios (and hearts)–and onto their canvasses.
Proud breeders and winners of dog shows commissioned artists to capture their champions in oil, to hang in the parlour and to admire way after their pup was no longer with them.
So it wasn’t too hard to find dog art–including paintings to sculptures–for New Jersey’s Morris Museum to include in its exhibition: The Dog Show: Art of our Canine Companions. Featuring more than 100 works from American and British artists, the show captures the spirit and essence of dogs–from champion show animals to orphaned mutts. Curated by the museum’s executive director Linda Moore, with help from William Secord–a dog painting expert who has an entire New York City gallery devoted to dogs and animals in art–the Dog Show includes works from the nineteenth century to the present.
Inspired by philanthropist and dog lover Geraldine R. Dodge
The inspiration for the exhibition was Geraldine R. Dodge, a longtime resident of Morris County, who, according to Moore, was not only a “legend in the purebred dog world,” but also was “a renowned art collector, philanthropist, dog show judge, breeder and exhibitor of champion dogs.” Dodge founded the Morris and Essex Dog show, which ran for thirty years and “became one of the most widely attended dog shows in the world, attracting up to 50,000 spectators.”
Dodge was also a patron of the arts, who in addition to collecting art, commissioned 200 paintings of her own show dogs, some of which are featured in the exhibition.
Dogs in the Museum
Why an art exhibit with just art featuring dogs (and one cat!)? “Dogs are a subject many people can relate to,” says Moore. Dogs have been depicted in artwork prior to the period covered by the show, but here they “take center stage.” You can tell by looking at the title tags that accompany each piece. It is customary to include the name of the artist, the date of the work, the title, medium and an acknowledgement of the person or entity that was kind enough to loan the art to the museum. In this exhibit, the breed of each dog–and the name, where possible–are listed as well.
And before you ask, no, there aren’t any plans to devote an entire art exhibit to cats as a subject. Yet.
I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the exhibit, which is open through December 14. Below are some of the highlights:
Click through the gallery below to see some of my favorite pieces from the exhibition.