Faithful and Fearless
The Wallace Collection is a museum in London occupying Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, the Marquesses of Hertford, one of the wealthiest families in Europe. It is named after Sir Richard Wallace, illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess, who, along with the Marquesses of Hertford, built the extensive collection in the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming leading art collectors of their time. The 4th Marquess left the house and collection to Sir Richard, whose widow bequeathed it to the nation, and the museum opened to permanent public view in 1900.
Today, if one looks very carefully, as many 907 dogs can be counted in and among the paintings, sculpture, medals, jewelry, and arms and armor of the permanent Wallace Collection.
Running until October 15, the Wallace Collection plays host to arguably the most important exhibition of portraits of dogs ever staged in the capital. “Faithful and Fearless: Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney” brings together 50-plus portraits, many being iconic images that most of us will be familiar with.
Two golden rules were closely followed when selecting pieces for the exhibition and its accompanying catalog: First, that no humans should appear in the portraits, and, second, that the works must come from British collections, with many on loan from the Royal Collection.
Thomas Gainsborough, Tristram and Fox, c.1775–85 © Tate Images.
The exhibition is subtitled “From Gainsborough to Hockney.” Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter, and is considered one of the most important artists of the second half of the 18th Century. He painted quickly, and his works are characterized by a light palette and easy strokes.
He completed his painting of “Tristan” and “Fox” circa 1775, and although the two dogs are not identified, one can assume that “Fox” is the lighter colored of the two with a pointed, fox-like face. They were Gainsborough’s much-loved pets, and the painting is reported to have hung over the chimney in his London house.
David Hockney, Dog Painting 19, 1995 © David Hockney. Photo: Richard Schmidt Collection, The David Hockney Foundation.
The exhibition includes six of David Hockney’s paintings of his two beloved red Dachshunds, “Stanley” and “Boodge.” In total he completed 45 paintings of the two dogs done over a period of four months, and all were done from life. One of the pictures showed “Stanley” eating, and for him to stay long enough at the bowl he was given double rations. A picture of “Boodge” was never completed as the dog got up and walked away. In 1995 David and the pictures toured the world so that as many people as possible could share with him the pleasure he got from his two dogs.
Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the most famous animal painters of all time. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy was when he was 12 years old, and his output throughout his life was prodigious. He first visited the Scottish Highlands when he was in his early 20s and visited most years afterward. Along with Queen Victoria he helped popularize Scotland and anything Scottish. He became one of the Queen’s favorite artists, patronage that brought him success in his profession and society.
The exhibition is a virtual tour de force of Landseer’s work, including most of his famous paintings, a number of which were commissioned by the Queen. His first painting for the Queen, then Princess Victoria, was “Dash,” a Toy Spaniel, commissioned for her 17th birthday in 1836 by her mother the Duchess of Kent, the year before she ascended the throne.
Edwin Landseer, Hector, Nero and Dash with the Parrot Lory, 1838 Royal Collection Trust © His Majesty King Charles III 2022.
In 1838 Landseer was commissioned to paint three of the Queen’s favorite dogs and the parrot “Lory,” who is shown cracking nuts and making a mess on the floor. The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy the same year and shows “Dash” recumbent on a rich red velvet footstool with gilt tassels; “Nero,” one of her two Greyhounds, and the Deerhound “Hector.” She had her first Deerhound in 1838 given to her by the Marquis of Breadalbane.
Landseer gave painting lessons to both Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, and four of her drawings of her dogs are included in the exhibition.
Charles Burton Barber, Minna, circa 1873. Royal Collect ion Trust © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.
Another of Queen Victoria’s favorite artists was Charles Burton Barber. His picture of “Minna” was posthumously painted in 1873, the year she died. She was the daughter of two of the Queen’s favorite Terriers, “Corran” and “Ferrisch.”
Leonardo da Vinci, Studies of a Dog's Paw (verso), National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased by private treaty sale with the aid of the Art Fund 1991 © National Galleries of Scotland.
There are two studies of dogs’ paws in the exhibition created circa 1490-95, instantly recognizable as the work of the master of drawing Leonardo da Vinci.
Jean-Jacques Bachelier, Dog of the Havana Breed, 1768, oil on canvas, French School, © The Bowe s Museum, Barnard Castle.
One of the many paintings that most of us will be familiar with was completed in 1768 by Jean-Jacques Bachelier, cataloged as “Dog of the Havana Breed.” I’m inclined to lean toward it being a Poodle. The date, the clip of the dog’s coat, the mischievousness of the dog’s nature and the fact that it is performing a trick all say Poodle.
Works by many artists who are household names in the genre are featured, including George Stubbs. For his pictures of celebrated hounds and pets of his wealthy patrons, Stubbs is regarded as the first artist to paint portraits of dogs.
Sales and exhibitions of dog art such as this one remind us of just how, in some instances, breeders have kept their chosen breed true to its original type, and in other instances breeders have changed them virtually beyond recognition.
One of the pictures from the Royal Collection is a painting by Frederich Keyl of the Pekingese “Looty,” one of the five dogs found by the British after they had ransacked the Summer Palace in 1860 and who was brought back to England and presented to Queen Victoria. Also in the exhibition are the stuffed remains of “Ah Cum.” This dog was one of two brought to England from China in 1896 and is acknowledged as an important patriarch of the Pekingese in England. Both “Looty” and “Ah Cum” show little resemblance to the Pekingese in the show ring today.
Unknown artist, Roman, The Townley Greyhounds, 1st-2nd century CE © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Included in the exhibition is one of the best known, most loved and admired classical sculptures circa the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Excavated in 1774 at Monte Cagnolo, just outside Rome, the group was acquired by the celebrated antiquarian Charles Townley — hence the title “The Townley Greyhounds.”
There is a fully illustrated catalog to the exhibition with an additional essay and images.