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VICTORIAN ENGLAND
from Dog Painting, 1840-1940, A Social History of the Dog in Art
by William Secord

The dog, once essential in hunting and farming societies, now became an animal to be exhibited, and the finer points of his anatomy compared with others of his type. While dog shows increased in number and people were attracted to breeding purebred dogs for show, many in the countryside continued to use the dog for sport.

The sporting paintings of the eighteenth century continued into the nineteenth, but in mid-century the field was further developed: purebred dogs were depicted because of how well they conformed to the standard for their breed: thus, the purebred dog portrait.

Sporting dog paintings continued to exist simultaneously with purebred dog portraits, and the distinction between the two was in the artist's - or the dog owner's - intention. This is no less true for the pet portrait. Paintings of dogs which were pets certainly existed in the eighteenth century and they continued throughout the nineteenth. What is clear, however, is that they reached a new and unprecedented popularity with the increased number of pets in the nineteenth century, a development which was greatly influenced by the esteem and affection with which the dog was held by Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

In this chapter we shall look at how the sporting tradition continued and expanded in the nineteenth century, the development of the purebred dog portrait, and the continuing tradition of the pet portrait. During the nineteenth century, organized competitions, known as field trials, developed, in which man and dog worked together as a team, testing the dog's ability to perform the function for which it was created. These competitions, held under the auspices of The Kennel Club became very popular. Sporting dog paintings, a sub-genre which includes Setters, Pointers and Field Spaniels will be presented in the context of organized field trials.

Purebred dog portraits, paintings of dogs where the emphasis is placed on the dog's form rather than its function, will illustrate our study of the evolution of dog shows and The Kennel Club itself. With the advent of dog shows, the active competition among breeders for prizes, and the prestige which resulted from owning a top purebred dog, came the desire for portraits of the dogs themselves.

Our third category of dog art, the pet portrait, is perhaps best personified by the paintings which the Queen herself commissioned. It was not uncommon for the Queen to have as many as eighty dogs at one time in her kennels at Windsor Park, and although the majority of them were purebred, her interest in dogs sprang from a direct love of the dog as a companion. This affection is the impetus for the pet portrait, and the British people, for centuries lovers of the dog, followed her lead.

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