Man's Best Friend

Man's Best Friend

One of the most popular sections of our annual Sporting Art, Wildlife and Dogs auction is the dog section. Dog paintings cover such a diverse array of styles and genres that a dog or hound picture can appeal to almost anyone. They truly are man’s best friend, and we love to immortalise them in paint or bronze. 

16 March 2023

 

In our Sporting Art sales, one of the most popular forms of dog painting is that of a hunting companion, often seen in action, chasing down or retrieving their quarry. Such paintings came to popularity in the 19th century with works by artists such as Edwin Landseer RA (1802-1873) and Richard Ansdell RA (1815-1885), and there were many Victorian and Edwardian followers of their style.

But hunting is not to everyone’s taste and there are other collectors who will look out for a particular breed; lapdogs were frequent subjects in the last century as owners would have portraits painted of their own pets, just as they still do today, and we have achieved some remarkable prices in the past for King Charles spaniels, for example. Some of the most popular breeds depicted in paintings echo those that are popular today – terriers, Labradors, spaniels, bulldogs. Some paintings just have that adorable factor that dog lovers universally respond to and that makes buyers dig deep.

Arthur Wardle (1864-1949), Sealyham terrier by the hearth (£7,150) 

Arthur Wardle (1864-1949) was one of the finest dog painters of the 19th/20th century and his painting of a Sealyham terrier before a hearth had all the right ingredients when it came up in our 2022 sale. It was fiercely contested in the saleroom, selling for over twice its pre-sale estimate of £3,000-5,000, selling for £7,150 including fees. The reason – it is absolutely charming. Terriers are a very popular breed and, because lots of us have them, they are familiar to us. Here, the dog’s faithful expression and plaintive eyes are beautifully rendered, his paw raised in patient expectation of a treat, or attention, will ring true to any dog owner. The secret to being a good animal painter is to make the subject look like a real animal and not just a painting of one; a surprisingly difficult achievement, yet when it’s done well, the result is magical.

Of all the sections in our Sporting Art and Wildlife sales, the dog section has held up the best on prices. While most traditional (19th century in particular) areas have seen a price correction over the last 15 to 20 years, this has been the most enduringly popular, and I suspect always will be. We will always love our pets and we will always want them on our walls.


 

To find out more about our 6 June Sporting Art, Wildlife & Dogs sale, please contact janeoakley@sworder.co.uk 

 

 


 

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