Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

England / 1802 - 1873 / wikipedia
Landseer's dog paintings of the 1830s are among his most celebrated works and Dignity and Impudence remains the most popular of all. Many, including this work, consist of commissioned, life-size 'portraits'; the rest are independent subjects, smaller in scale and usually with a narrative content. Here Landseer wittily contrasts the scale and character of a bloodhound called Grafton and a West Highland terrier called Scratch. Both dogs belonged to Jacob Bell, who commissioned the picture. The picture's composition parodies the Dutch portrait tradition, whereby the subject is framed by a window, with an arm or hand extending over the edge, just as the bloodhound's paw hangs over the edge of the kennel. Landseer draws attention to the dogs' 'human' characteristics: the soulful look and gentle dignity of the bloodhound is contrasted with the mischievous expression of the small terrier. Moreover, the larger dog is painted in smooth, variegated textures, while the smaller dog comes to life with a few jabbing and expressive brushstrokes.
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Suzan Hamer


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