When two things I love intersect, I am a happy woman.
So when the folks at Harper Design asked me if I’d like to review the book Dogs Rough and Smooth, I jumped on the opportunity faster than Jasper finding an empty spot on the couch. (And, no, I wasn’t paid for this review, just received a free copy of the book.)
Because art. And dogs. In a book. (That’s actually three.)
What isn’t there to love about a book by Lucy Dawson, whose sketches of dogs, and the amusing stories behind them, were enormously popular in England and the U.S. in the 1930s? Back then it was fashionable for aristocrats to commission stuffy oil portraits of their pampered and prize-winning pure-breds. But Mac, as Lucy was known, poured the essence of dogness onto paper, using graphite and pastels to bring to life the adorable quirks that makes us love our furry family members so much.
Back in the day, Dawson’s canine artwork was so popular that she published several collections, which are are long out of print; first editions can be found on eBay selling for more than $100. The British royal family even commissioned a painting of their Corgi “Dookie,” which was later featured on a Windsor family Christmas card.
I first fell in love with Dawson’s work when I attended The Dog Show: Art of our Canine Companions, an exhbitiion held at New Jersey’s Morris Museum featuring more than 100 works from American and British artists. I got a private tour of the show, and in my blog post I included a slide show of some of my favorite works, one of which was a pastel by Lucy Dawson, entitled Best Friends.
Last year Harper Design published Dawson’s Dogs As I See Them, adding Dogs Rough and Smooth this year for Dawson fans, with a new foreword by Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief. Orlean notes how the artist “was better than anyone at sketching the fold of a fox terrier’s ear, or the tender little sag of a spaniels’ upper lip, or the coursing energy of the muscles beneath a whippet’s skin.”
Dawson draws her subjects simply, capturing them just being dogs, relaxing on a sofa, or with paws bunched like broccoli, or even backs to the viewer, ears attuned to some unseen distraction.
What might not be obvious at first is that Dawson is as handy with words as she is with pastels and pencils, sketching endearing notes about her models that bring the dogs to life, as if they’re ready for a walk off the page, or wag a tail in greeting, like Peter the Schipperke, whose tail, she notes, “is too short to wag, and this rather saddens me, because it wants to wag all the day long.”
This book is one of those rarities that you’ll go back to time and again, to visit the terrier Mr. Sponge, or the regal Lady Olfina, or Snoodle, the wire-haired Dachshund.
Enter to Win a Set of Lucy Dawson Dog Books
Enter below for your chance to win a set of Lucy Dawson dog books; each set consists of a copy each of Dogs As I See Them and Dogs Rough and Smooth. I have two sets to give away.
Enter below for your chance to win a set. Read the complete rules.
Congratulations to the winners!
- Laura C., from Arizona
- Paula C., from New Jersey
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Which of your pets would make a great subject for a Lucy Dawson portrait?
You may also like:
- The Dog Show: Art of our Canine Companions
- Cat Art: Portrait of a Cat Called Dawn, by Thomas Clausen
- Fat Cat Art: All Masterpieces Should Include a Cat, and Now They Do
- Tabs or Tab-bies: Meow Met app is where cats, art and technology meet