Art has gone to the dogs

What do you do when you have the world’s largest collection of dog art? If you’re the American Kennel Club you open a museum.

Last February, the AKC opened the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in New York City. Museum goers will see a collection of paintings, photographs, fancy collars and show trophies.

What do you do if you can’t make it to New York but are in the mood to see some “four-legged art?” Visit the Dayton Art Institute and sniff out its canine collection.

In an interview with The New York Times, William Secord, an expert on the genre, said dog paintings could be divided into three categories: pet portraits, sporting scenes and purebred portraits. DAI “dog” art fits into some of these categories.

The “Standing Man with Dog” statue greets you before you enter the museum. This 1930s Bedford limestone sculpture is a larger-than-life-size man standing with his arms behind his back and a dog at his feet.

There are numerous examples of dog art inside, from Mexican earthenware dating to 200 BC-AD 300 to Japanese Pop Art of the 1990s.

Charles Soule Jr.’s mid-1800s “Boy with Dog” is a portrait of Walter Gebhart, heir to the Montgomery County linseed oil and cake-manufacturing firm. Soule was an Ohio artist who traveled widely painting portraits of prominent people of the time.

The portrait is of Gebhart as a young boy holding the leash of his black-and-white dog.

I’ve always wondered how artists who painted before the camera was invented could persuade their subjects, children and animals, to sit long enough to be painted. Teddy, our 5-year-old Lab, won’t sit long for me to take photos of him. I’m talking one to two minutes, tops.

Two works of art that could fit into Secord’s sporting scenes category are Paul Manship’s bronze “Indian Hunter with his Dog” (1926) and Benjamin West’s oil painting “Adonis with His Dogs” (1800).

Manship’s sculpture, while not a painting, depicts a hunter and his dog running. Looking at the sculpture, you can’t help but imagine the possible prey the two were running after.

West’s painting has Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire, holding a hunting horn and spear with his dogs by his side. In mythology, Adonis was known for his hunting skills.

I have a number of 1940s through 1960s black-and-white photos of my dad and his brothers decked out in hunting attire with the family dog sitting beside the “happy” hunters.

My favorite piece is Grace Carpenter Hudson’s oil painting “Bet I Get Him” (1921). In her day, Hudson was a nationally recognized painter of Native American subjects, particularly the Pomo Indians of coastal and inland northern California.

The painting is of a Native American boy standing next to a river, fishing with his dog by his side.

A child and his dog is a popular theme across a multitude of genres. It reminds me of my daughter, Jordan as a 7-or-8-year-old playing “spy” in the backyard with the family dog, Lucy, by her side.

The next rainy afternoon, when it’s too wet to walk the dog, consider taking a different walk and explore all of DAI. Discovering the different representations of the “beloved canine” as well as a few feline is worth the time.


Wed., Fri., Sat.: 11 a.m - 5 p.m.

Thursday: 11 a.m-8 p.m.

Sunday: noon-5 p.m.