Increased Popularity of Dogs in ArtPublished March 7, 2012
During this year’s annual “dogs only” art auction—Bonhams’ Dogs in Show & Field Auction—following the Westminster Dog Show, two price records were broken, exhibiting the art world’s increasing affinity for dogs in art.
According to an MSNBC article, the painting “Dejeuner,” which shows dogs and cats eating from a large dish, set a price record for 19th century artist William Hamilton Trood (1806-1899) when the painting was purchased for $194,500. An hour later, however, that record was broken when Trood’s painting “Hounds in a Kennel,” portraying six dogs staring at a bird outside of their cage, was sold for $212,500.
The dog art market is clearly climbing in the popularity ranks amongst art and animal lovers alike.
William Secord, owner of The William Secord Gallery in Manhattan—the only gallery in the nation devoted to dog art—and founding director of the nation’s only dog art museum, the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog in St. Louis, affirms the dog art industry’s increase in popularity citing the increased visitors at both his gallery and the AKC Museum of the Dog.
Although a majority of the art sold at the auction or viewed in galleries and museums are paintings from the nineteenth century, there are a number of contemporary artists dedicated to dog art.
American artist Robert K. Abbett, 86, has painted hundreds of dogs over the years, with some of his work selling for as much as $50,000.
“Animals have always been a popular subject,” Abbett tells reporters, but “you have to do what turns you on or it won’t be your best work.”
Abbett also notes the importance of meeting the dog before beginning the painting, as well as the significant boon of photography which allows today’s artists to capture a specific scene to paint the portrait at his or her own pace.
Contemporary dog artists like Abbett, unlike the nineteenth century artists (who tended to paint purebred hunting dogs such as setters, pointers, and retrievers), go along with the trends of the time. Fifty years ago Collies and German shepherds were often painted because of the popularity of dog celebrities like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin. Today Labrador and Golden Retrievers are the most popular, yet historically the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been the most frequently painted, Secord said.
With the increasing popularity of dog art amongst auction lovers, Secord issues a word of warning: “Buy [the painting] because you love it. If you want an investment go to the stock market.”
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