The loyal dog has appeared in paintings as far back as 4500 BC when canines were portrayed on cave walls along with wild animals, though their likeness doesn’t represent any known breed today. As the dog’s relationship with the human evolved, so did the way he is represented in art. In the early Middle Ages, dogs were valued for their aggressiveness and appeared in paintings in packs on hunting expeditions. In the Renaissance, as dogs begin to be viewed more as domestic companions, they appear in paintings on the laps of ladies as objects of affection. In the 18th century, dog portraits became popular amongst the wealthy British.
Here are just a few samples of dogs in art, painted by some of history’s most famous artists around the world:
Flemish artist, Jan Van Eyck (1390 – 1441) places a small terrier in a wedding scene in the famous The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Givoanna Cenami
Spanish painter, Diego Velasquez (1599 – 1660) liked to place dogs in the company of children. In Maids of Honor, we see a large dog in the foreground tolerating an ornery child.
French Impressionist, Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883) has several dog paintings in his famed body of works including this portrait: A King Charles Spaniel.
Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919), one of the most famous French Impressionists, featured dogs in several of his paintings, including Madame Renoir with a Dog,
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) often featured dogs, such as the soulful painting Boy with Dog.
Beloved American artist, Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) frequently used puppies and dogs in his paintings, some as the main subject, as with A Boy Meets His Dog, and some as the sidekick, or partner in crime, as in No Swimming.
You may not recognize his name, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1844-1934), but you surely know his works. His most famous dog painting, A Friend in Need, is from his series of Dogs Playing Poker.
American artist, Andrew Wyeth (born 1917) presents a quiet, perhaps lonely image of a dog in Ides of March.
The often imitated, never duplicated American Pop Art hero, Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) depicts a very alert Dachshund in the artist’s unique style in Portrait of Maurice.
A few artists of our time have earned their fame specifically because of their work with dogs. You’ve probably seen the delightful off-beat photography of William Wegman and his famous Weimaraners, or the famous Blue Dog paintings of George Rodrique.
Art Museums and Galleries Featuring Dog Art
You can visit most any art museum and find great works of art that feature dogs. But it is rare to find an exhibit that focuses on dogs so that dog lover and art lover can enjoy both passions in one place. Fortunately, with the growing enthusiasm for dogs being considered beloved family members, and as part of modern culture, we are beginning to see a few dog art exhibits emerge. There are now a few art museums, art galleries and festivals dedicated to exhibiting dog paintings and other dog art. Information on where to find them is below, with addresses and links.
Art Museums & Exhibits
Museum of the Dog
1721 South Mason Road
St. Louis, MO
Art Bark Fest
Animal Art & Wine Festival
The Village at Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley, CA
William Secord Gallery
52 East 76th Street
New York, NY
Online Art Museums and Galleries Featuring Dog Art
Art Show at the Dog Show
Artists who create dog-related art enter an annual art contest, sponsored by Purina, and have the opportunity to exhibit their work.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Best in Show: The Dog in Art from the Renaissance to Today.
Unfortunately, the exhibit dates have passed, but you can watch a video commentary on this dog art exhibit.
More articles on dogs in art:
Who Let the Dogs Out?