Fri, 02/02/2024 - 12:33pm

The Engraved Dog

From Bewick to Landseer, Nick Waters explores this centuries-old art form

Engraving was developed as an original art form in the 15th and 16th centuries by the German painter Albrecht Dürer, Dutch artist Lucas van Leyden and Italian painter Andrea Mantegna. The 17th Century saw two notable traditions develop: the reproductive print after paintings by leading artists, and the portrait print pioneered by the French artist and engraver Robert Nanteuil.

The demand for reproductive engravings of popular paintings increased in the 18th Century with particular demand for high-quality plates. This changed in the 19th Century with interest in larger plates of popular paintings produced in a mixture of techniques.



One of the best known of all dog engravings is the Spanish Pointer by George Stubbs (1724-1806). The painting from which the engraving was taken was created in 1766, when Stubbs was still practicing painting. He got his idea from John Buckler’s painting of a Spanish Pointer pointing, but Stubbs’ dog is more vivid and beautiful.

No one knows who commissioned the painting, if indeed anyone did, and there are at least two versions: Version A was in the collection of the King of Bavaria and hung at Schloss Schleissheim, and version B was originally owned by the publisher Thomas Bradford. The first of the many subsequent engravings was by William Woollett and published in 1786.



Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) was a wood engraver and natural-history author. Circa 1790 he created a set of engravings that are important to students and historians studying the development of breeds, long before the Kennel Club and the standardization of breeds. The group that has changed the least over all the decades is the Hound group and in particular the Greyhound. True, there are today differences between the racing dogs and the show dogs, but both are recognizable as the same breed and the breed as it was in Bewick’s time and earlier.

One of the most important Scottish paintings of falconry, where the sport was particularly popular, was painted circa 1811 by James Howe (1780-1836). Howe was himself a Scotsman, the son of a minister, born in Peeblesshire.



Titled “Hawking: Malcolm Fleming of Barochan,” the mezzotint and stipple engraving is by Charles Turner and published in 1816. The subjects are Fleming on horseback holding a falcon; James Anderson, considered one of the last of the great Scottish falconers, and Anderson’s assistant, George Harvey. Fleming’s family seat, Barochan Tower, can be seen in the distance. The dogs in the picture are a Pointer for finding the game, an assortment of spaniels to flush the game for the falcon to catch and a Poodle. The inclusion of a Poodle in narrative pictures and engravings from the Regency period often indicated a fop or a dandy. The connection here could be a reference to Fleming’s pretentiousness and Anderson’s predisposition to dressing up. Howe’s painting is in the collection of the Royal Kennel Club.



Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the first artists responsible for the popularity of canine portraiture, helped by the volume of his work that was published as engravings and available to a wide audience. “Beauty’s Bath,” the original of which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839, is one of his least known engravings. The subject is a young Miss Eliza Peel with “Fido.” She was the daughter of Sir Robert Peel, who served twice as prime minister of the United Kingdom. In adult life she was the Woman of the Bedchamber (Lady-in-Waiting) to Queen Victoria when Princess of Wales.

The popularity in Britain of Dachshunds, or German Badger Dogs as they were then known, is thanks largely to Prince Albert, who imported several from the kennels of Prince Albert of Saxe-Weimar and successfully used them for pheasant shooting in Windsor Forest. (My late brother John used a Dachshund for flushing game when out shooting.)



In the mid-1860s the odd Dachshund appeared at shows, and the subject of the engraving is possibly the fourth Dachshund to be shown in Britain. “Feldmann” was born in 1866 and owned by John Fischer, the leading breeder of Dachshunds in the North of England. Feldmann had an impressive show career, winning more than 30 prizes. He was bred by Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, from whom he was a gift to Fisher.



The engraving of the two Skye Terriers is by the French artist and illustrator Paul Mahler. His output was prolific, and he was commissioned by the Journal L’ Acclimatation in Paris to record every known breed of dog. The Skye Terriers are Ch. Wolverley Duchess and Ch. Wolverley Jock, two of the many winners from the successful kennel of Mrs. Hughes. “Duchess” was probably the most successful, winning a total of 15 Challenge Certificates and the Champion of Champions prize at one of the Ladies Kennel Association shows.


The engraving of the two Dogues de Bordeaux is by Richard Hewitt Moore, Britain’s most prolific 19th-Century dog artist and illustrator. The breed was first exhibited in Britain at Birmingham National Show in 1895, but when cropping was stopped it was one of the breeds in which all interest was lost. The initial importations were by Bulldog breeders, and after an article in the newspaper The Stockkeeper on fighting dogs in the South of France, Mr. Brooke and Mr. Sam Woodiwiss set off for France in search of specimens. The winner of first prize at the Bordeaux show was a bitch called “Cora,” who was imported by Woodiwiss, as was a dog called “Turc,” and these are the two dogs in Moore’s engraving.



Tirzah Ravilious (née Garwood) was taught wood-engraving by Eric Ravilious, whom she later married. “The Dog Show,” originally titled “The Sister-in-Law,” was exhibited at the 10th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers in November 1829. It was commissioned for a project but never completed series by Oliver Simon. With her keen observation of the two exhibitors and her choice of breeds for the period, particularly the Terriers, she was obviously familiar with dog shows. One can imagine her wandering around Olympia in London with her sketchbook in hand.

Two appeared at auction in less than a month apart. Proving just how fickle and unpredictable the market can be, Parker Fine Art offered one with expectation of between £200 and £300 that sold for £380, while Sworders pitched theirs at £400-600, and it sold for £750.



© Dog News. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.

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