Woof woof woof: or the dog in art…..woof

Now for some total self-indulgence! Having just welcomed two beautiful Whippets into the family (don’t get me started…), it seems like the ideal time to explore the central, if under-appreciated, place of the dog in art.

Dogs in Australian art : a new history of antipodean creativity by Steven Miller

Wakefield Press, 2012

Wakefield Press, 2012

Steven Miller is one of the few local art historians to clearly recognise the central place our canine companions occupy in the history of Australian art: “The various stylistic shifts which have occurred, the debates about abstraction and figuration, the rivalries between schools and cities are attributed to sociological, historical and personal factors, when the real cause was all the while sitting under our tables.”. Sensibly arranged by breed so that you can immediately go to the Ws (or wherever else you choose), the author’s commentary manages to be both entertaining and enlightening on both the dogs and the artwork, with more than a little Australian history thrown in for good measure. Really delightful!

The dog : 5000 years of the dog in art by Tamsin Pickeral

Merrell, 2008

Merrell, 2008

5000 years of dogs in art, heaven! This large and beautifully illustrated volume charts the visual depiction of the dog from cave paintings right through to the here-and-now. The chapters are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, so we get the religious dog, the domestic dog, the hunting dog, the Romantic dog, etc., etc. As a work of art/historical scholarship it’s quite amazing, but it is also deeply imbued with the author’s passion for all things canine and is full of surprisingly moving imagery; Theodore Gericault’s Portrait of a Bulldog is a remarkably touching depiction of a fellow usually assigned the tough-guy role.

Theodore Gericault Portrait of a Bulldog, 1816-18

Theodore Gericault: Portrait of a Bulldog, 1816-18

Dogs in the Louvre by François Nourissier, Élisabeth Foucart-Walter

Flammarion, 2007

Flammarion, 2007

The French have a wonderfully relaxed attitude regarding dogs and where they can and can’t go, and even the mighty Louvre is full of them; on the walls at least! I think my favourite in this casual dog-spotting exercise is the benign mutt partially hidden behind a seated figure in Louis Le Nain’s painting, The Cart: sweet old thing.

Louis Le Nain, The Cart, 1641

Louis Le Nain: The Cart, 1641


Best in show : the dog in art from the Renaissance to today: Edgar Peters Bowron, et. al.

Yale University Press, 2006

Yale University Press, 2006

This lovely book was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name (who could resist?) held at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2006. Taking as its starting point some of those wonderful, noble hounds that populate so many Renaissance landscapes and portraits, its main emphasis rests on depictions from the 19th century onwards when artists from Edwin Landseer to Lucien Freud happily moved the dog from the background into the centre of the frame; quite right!


A soldier’s best friend, from our Picture Collection:

Australian soldier with a dog by Charles Edward Boyles

Australian soldier with a dog by Charles Edward Boyles



  1. Sandra says:

    Very good. Now how about cats in art….

    • Dermot McCaul says:

      Thanks for the kind words Sandra and have no fear, we are herding the cats right now…..

      • Sandra says:

        Ferrets. What about ferrets in art?

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