Article Index/ANTA Seminar
Posted 02/22/98

A Review of the Annual Joan R. Read Memorial Seminar

The Terrier In Sporting Art

presented by

William Secord

October 11, 1997

The depiction of the dog as a subject in fine art was the topic presented by Mr. William Secord at the third annual Joan Read Lecture on October 11, 1997. Attendees of this event contributed a generous donation directed toward the Baker Institute and the Morris Animal Foundation. These funds are offered in memory of Mrs. Read, whose interest in the Norfolk Terrier resulted in the founding of the American Norfolk Terrier Association.

William Secord's tie to Norfolk Terriers is a personal one -- he happily shares his life with a delightful Norfolk named Nora. As a testament to his love of the breed, scarcely an example of the Norfolk in antique art can escape his personal collection. In addition, Nora has been immortalized on canvas by celebrated canine artist Christine Merrill.

As owner of the William Secord Gallery which specializes in nineteenth century dog and animal art, Mr. Secord has authored the authoritative volume addressing the subject of the dog in art, Dog Painting, 1840-1940. In addition, he has served as the founding director of the Dog Museum of America as well as writing a series of articles concerning the dog in art.

The visual presentation, via slides of the illustrative works, commenced with an example of prehistoric cave paintings featuring dogs. Eighteenth century artists rendered the images of dogs as mere adjuncts to the primary subject matter. It was finally during the nineteenth century that canine art came to prominence under the encouraging hand of Queen Victoria.

Among those artists featured was George Stubbs, whose realistic representations of canine anatomy forever changed the face of canine art. Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the first artists to anthropomorphize the dog, that is to visually represent the dog with human behavioral characteristics. It was with the advent of artists George Earl and Maud Earl, his daughter, that the appearance of the dog itself became of primary importance. Among painter Arthur Wardle's contributions to canine art was an emphasis on terriers as subject matter.

According to Mr. Secord, three genres of canine art exist:

  1. The purebred dog portrait -- A convention that evolved to illustrate how the dog conformed to the breed standard.
  2. The sporting dog portrait -- The focus of the work was the dog's performance.
  3. The pet portrait -- A centuries old form which came into vogue during the reign of Queen Victoria and depicted beloved dogs as pets residing in domestic interiors.

The presentation's finale elicited a substantial sigh of appreciation from the audience as the slide show finished with two Norfolk portraits. One was of Nora, Mr. Secord's companion Norfolk, painted by Ms. Merrill. The second was a Norfolk rendered by Norfolk owner and nationally known artist Constance Coleman. A lively question and answer period followed to provide a delightful end to a fascinating learning experience.

Melanie Wallwork
November, 1997

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