Book of the DOG
'This book is part quirky analysis of dog breeds, part historical survey of canines in art. Cute, compact and cheap, it's got broad appeal' -Time Out
'Rarer still for an “art book” is the wit and concision of Kendra Wilson's writing. Her pithy observervations on the characteristics of different breeds deserve to be collected in their own right' - Offset
Elizabeth Peyton, Felix, 2011
Felix is a fabulous dog, having made his debut in a Los Angeles art show, hanging near David Bowie. His creator and mistress is Elizabeth Peyton, whose figurative painting has always provoked debate. Peyton is admired by celebrities and collected by them, she is herself a celebrity. Although she became well known in the early 1990s for painting famous people from photographs, Felix is part of a more recent tendency to work from life, with more naturalistic paintings of low-key people, flowers and animals. The oil-on-aluminum portrait demonstrates a welcome spontaneity, particularly around the dog's ears.
Yet Peyton's work still confounds, which leads to an impressive amount of labelling. She flattens planes of colour like Alex Katz; she ritualizes fame in the manner of Andy Warhol; she approaches colour and pattern in the style of Matisse. People who buy art just like it.
The interior monologue
of a Jack Russell
John Saint-Helier Lander, Portrait of HGH the Prince of Wales, 1925
"The Prince of Wales is wearing it" was a popular phrase in the interwar era, and here he is accessorized by a cairn terrier, tweed cap and Fair Isle sweater. The fuzzy neutrals of the Highland dog are a steadying influence in this sartorial landscape of checks and zigzags, which only a confirmed dandy could carry off. By approving a locally knitted sweater in the 1920s, the prince sparked an international craze.
The cairn, was only recognized as an official breed in 1910, though it is one of the oldest Scottish sporting dogs, happiest squaring up to a rat or fox among the piles of rocks (or cairns) characteristic of the Highlands. Like the Fair Isle, the terrier was traditional yet novel, the perfect companion for the prince. "Royal Friends," read the caption to the photogravure of this picture when it appeared in the illustrated London News. "Special portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales and his favourite dog."
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Boy, mid-19th century
Despite first appearances, this is not a pet's likeness from a dedicated dog artist, the kind of things found in the master's study. It is by Jean-Léon Gérome, one of the most honoured and commercially successful artists in France in the second half of the nineteenth century. Reliably spectacular, Gérôme's accessible tableaux of classical and oriental scenes were conceived with photorealist detail. An eminent professor at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, he had little in common with the Impressionists.
Boy is not epic. With his beady eye and muscular body, he is a hard-working terrier inhabiting a domestic world. British royalty helped to popularize the dog genre, with portraits of pure-bred sporting breeds as well as pets of mixed origin. The lions, serpents and semi-clad humans of Gérôme's cinematic imagination could not be further from this painting of a well- loved working dog called Boy.