Sunday, June 08, 2008

Terriers in Art

White hunting terriers from England go by many names and, depending on the country, the names do not even mean exactly the same nowadays. There are Parson Russell Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Foxterriers and, to make it even more confusing, Parson Jack Russell Terriers, all of which go back to the same ancestors.

It was the Reverend John "Jack" Russell (1795 - 1883) who started breeding such dogs systematically for working purposes. The breeder of my dogs, an old man in Wales who breeds them since he was a boy just for his own working purposes and sells the rest, calls them "Russell Terriers", which is, I think, a fair way out of the dilemma, specifically if one isn't bothered with standards (beautiful is who beautiful works) and memberships.

The white terriers have caught the attention of many artists. That is, I presume, at least partly because their short hair allows full view of their facial expression, something their long-haired brethren naturally don't share. A judicial look (dirty by any other name) from one of them is priceless. Add their natural cheekiness and showmanship, their zeal when working and their appreciation for the good life at home and one has found the ideal objet d'art.

Many pictures, specifically from the Victorian period, are chocolate boxy, some are just plainly descriptive and unexciting, but some get it just right. This is a random collection of pictures I like and the order doesn't imply any assessment whatsoever.

"Gamekeeper's Companion" by John Fitz Marshall (1859 - 1932)

"Terrier in a Landscape" by William Elsob Marshall (1859 - 1881)

"Two Fox Terriers" by Alfred Wheeler (1852 - 1932)

"Jocko with A Hedgehog" by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802 - 1873)

"Bay Horse and White Dog" by George Stubbs (1724 – 1806)

So here we see a white terrier well before the age of the Reverend John Russell.

"In the Lap of Luxury" by Philip Eustace Stretton (1865 - 1919)

"A Nest of Dogs" by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 - 1912)

I have added the last picture because Alma-Tadema seems to be such an unlikely painter of dogs, at least of dogs that are not heavily stylized. They may even not be terriers (my bet is on a Spaniel breed), but the picture is too special to be missed.

And just for a reality check and to show how little has changed over the centuries:

Jill 2006, with her litter by Jack

Centuries of "Handsome is who handsome does" breeding has kept the breed healthy, vital, efficient -- and largely the same.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Any Landseer Experts There?

And no, not the dog breed, the man who lent his name to it.

I am sure all of you who read this have at least a general idea about the life and work of Sir Edwin Landseer (1802 - 1873). He was best known for his paintings of animals - particularly horses and dogs.

One of my Ebay buys is a small (15 x 27 cm) oil painting of a gundog. I first thought of a German Short Hair Pointer, but as it's not docked it's more likely an English Pointer.

What does that have to do with Sir Edwin Landseer? Well, it might be signed "Landseer" or mightn't it?

By the way, the seller, who took the pictures, brightened the colours considerably, they are actually much more faded.

I am aware of the fact that I could paint... well whatever and sign it "Leonardo da Vinci" and as long as I am not trying to convince people that my painting is an authentic Leonardo, no harm is done, so the signature can be just a joke. The seller did NOT try to sell it as a "Landseer", he pronounced the signature unreadable.

On the other hand, the small picture is fairly old and not badly performed. A quick sketch by the master? Would a renowned painter sign such a sketch? One of the other Landseers? It is not totally improbable that it is somehow related to that family.

(If it isn't, it's no great deal because the price was in the lowest three-figure range and it's always worth that, whoever painted it.)

I have searched the Internet to the end and back and couldn't find a signature of Sir Edwin or of any of the other Landseers. So is anybody out there who knows Landseer's signature or where I might find information about it?

Friday, June 06, 2008

In Praise of Ebay

The look I would like to achieve is that of a house which has been lived-in by the same family for generations. A general period flair - of course! But no "period rooms", nothing from the interior decorator's notebook.

Everybody loves to hate Ebay, at least here, but without the huge selection of goods offered there and without the search and browsing functionality I don't know how I could cope, as there is not a budget of 100,000 Euro plus an interior decorator to spend it. There are simply not enough fleemarkets, junk goods and reasonable antique shops around one can visit and search in a reasonable distance, let alone time.

Here are two gems I bought from Ebay Austria, two architectural watercolour sketches dated 1901 by an artist (an art student?) named Luise Baumwolf. The very topical Renaissance theme of the ornaments deserves a special place in the house.