Portrait of an Artist
Frederick Thomas Daws was one of a group of British artists born in the 19th Century who worked well into the 20th Century, all specializing in portraying pedigree dogs.
Daws is recorded as being born in 1878 in Southwark, South London (although a member of the family thinks more accurately Bermondsey); his father, also Frederick, was an oil merchant’s clerk. In the 1890s the family moved to Kent House Road, Beckenham, and it was from there that Daws did most of his work. In 1946 he moved to Hastings on the south coast, and he died there in 1956.
He was an active member of Robertson Street Congregational Church in Hastings, and on his death bequeathed one of his landscape paintings to the church.
Although not from an artistic background, Daws found his true vocation early in life. He studied at Lambeth School of Art. His earlier work, like that of many other budding artists, was reproduced in such publications as the Illustrated London News, and he exhibited his first picture, “Companions in Trouble,” at the Royal Academy in 1896. He exhibited further paintings at the Academy as well as other principal galleries in the U.K. and The Salon in Paris.
Unlike his contemporaries who concentrated on painting, Daws was equally adept as a sculptor; in fact, some, including me, consider him a more accomplished sculptor than he was a painter. His three-dimensional dogs were reproduced in bronze, plaster, porcelain and concrete.
New standards were set for Royal Doulton dog sculptures when Daws became involved in the collection. He strove for complete accuracy in his representation of named champions, and he liaised with the breeders on precise details of conformation. Most of his models are in “show pose.”
The first of Daws “Championship Dogs” for Doulton, issued in 1931, was H.S. Lloyd’s Lucky Star of Ware, who was Best in Show at Crufts in both 1930 and 1931. Many other champions followed, the last being the English Setter, Ch. Maesydd Mustard, first issued in 1950.
In 1932 Daws started advertising concrete dog ornaments for sale for gardens, memorials, and bases for bird baths and sundials. Some of the top Fox Terrier breeders of the day and Mrs. Campbell Inglis of the Mannerhead Poodles ordered concrete dogs for their gardens.
Daws patrons included Britain’s Queen Alexandra; Portugal’s Queen Amélie, and the Maharaja Sir Teen Chandra Shamsher Jung Bahadu Rana of Nepal. For the Maharaja, Daws completed 11 murals as well as sculptures. He was also commissioned by the Royal Air Force to paint a life-size portrait of King George V.
For Spratt’s Dog Food, Daws painted a series of 36 named “Champion Dogs,” and Johnson, Riddle & Co. printed these as postcards. The images were also used on trade cards and a Spratt’s calendar.
The Kennel Club in London has two Daws pictures: Miss Marion Keyte-Perry’s Samoyed, Ch. Logia of the Arctic, regarded by many as one of Daw’s finest works, and Mrs. Santer’s English Springer Spaniels, Ch. Dry Toast (the model for the English Springer in Doulton’s range introduced in 1936), Ch. Winning Number of Solway and Ch. Nimble of Hamsey. The picture of the English Springers was used one year to promote Crufts Dog Show.
The AKC Museum of the Dog has a Daws painting of the two black Miniature Poodle brothers, Ch. The Laird of Mannerhead and Ch. Limelight of Mannerhead, a gift from Frank T. Sabella. They were bred and owned by Mrs. M. Campbell Inglis, who was Daws’ most important patron in the dog world for whom he completed several portraits over a period of some 20 years.
Canterbury Auction Galleries in their recent sale offered a collection by Daws that covered the depth of his work as sculptor and painter, and not just dogs: big cats and other wild animals, horses and studies from nature. Daws was the vendor’s great-uncle. Upon his death, work from his studio passed to the vendor’s grandmother, then to their mother, followed by their brother and now to them. In most cases condition was an issue.
Interest centered on bidders from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and all but two of the dog lots sold, most above estimates.
The most important of the show dogs was the painted plaster model on a rectangular base of H.S. Lloyd’s Cocker Spaniel, Tracey Witch of Ware, who was Best in Show at Crufts in 1948 and 1950. The model was presented to Lloyd, who was one of Daws’ chief patrons, by Spratt’s to commemorate her Crufts wins, and Spratt’s subsequently used copies of this model to promote their dog food. It sold to a buyer based in the U.K. for £300, double the top estimate.
The same U.K. buyer bought the painted plaster model on a base of the black-and-tan smooth Dachshund, Ch. Shrewd Saint, for £300, over double the top estimate. The dog was owned by Miss E. Spurrier, whose Querns kennel was one of the strongest in the breed in the interwar period. It was the model for the Dachshund in Doulton’s range.
The white plaster model of the Sealyham Ch. Scotia Stylist and the Pekingese Ch. Biddee of Ifield were the models for both breeds in Doulton’s range. They were included in a lot with a plaster model of a lioness. The group was bought by another U.K.-based buyer for a mid-estimate £120. The Sealyham was a big winner in the late 1920s for Mrs. C.J. Barber, and the Pekingese was owned by Mrs. Ray Chandler (formerly Mrs. Sybil Whitehead), whose field kennel was successful both before and after World War II.
The pictures of the harlequin Great Dane and the Irish Wolfhound represented Daws at his best. Sadly, nothing was known about the Great Dane, and it failed to sell, but the Wolfhound was Mrs. Knox’s Ch. Lady of Raikeshill, whose stuffed remains can be seen in the Natural History Museum at Tring. The Wolfhound proved to be the “star” of the dogs; against an estimate of £200-300, three determined bidders took it up to £2,100, the hammer falling in favor of a buyer based in Ireland. The breed and attribution can make a great deal of difference to the outcome.
Included with a handful of head studies was an Irish Water Spaniel, a breed rarely seen at auction, but, sadly, like the Great Dane, there were no details as to the dog’s identity. The Lloyd family did own Irish Water Spaniels, so the dog could conceivably have been one of theirs. It sold over estimate for £210 to the same Irish-based buyer.
Daws is not considered a sporting artist, but the collection offered a particularly fine and well-observed hunting scene of an unknown pack of Foxhounds clearing a fence in full cry with the master and following field close up. This sold just below estimate for £740, also to the Irish-based buyer.