The Dog as a muse

Published on 20 February 2021 at 12:52

Some of the Greatest Puppy Artworks in the world

These are artworks inspired by man's best friends: dogs. 


George Romney, Lady Hamilton as Nature (1782), at the Frick Collection, New York

Emma Hart (1765–1815) was a woman of great beauty and charm who rose from humble origins to international fame. Charles Greville, whose mistress she was and who commissioned this portrait, educated her in music and literature, and Greville's uncle, Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to Naples, brought her to Italy, where they were married. 


artwork Lady Hamilton as nature

George Romney, Lady Hamilton as Nature (1782).
Courtesy the Frick Collection, New York.

There she entertained company with her “attitudes” — a kind of Romantic aesthetic posturing achieved with the aid of shawls and classical draperies. Emma attracted the attention of Lord Horatio Nelson, with whom she had a notorious romantic liaison until his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. Although she inherited money from both Hamilton and Nelson, her extravagance led her into debt, and she died in poverty. This portrait was the first of more than twenty that Romney painted of his “divine lady,” many in the guise of characters from history, mythology, and literature.

wikipedia: Emma, Lady Hamilton


Pablo Picasso, dinner plate portrait of Lump the dog (1957)
The artist’s intimate relationships with his female models are well known, but Pablo Picasso also had a less infamous canine muse: a dachshund named Lump who was basically kidnapped from Lifephotographer David Douglas Duncan.

While eating lunch one day, Picasso asked Duncan if Lump had ever had a plate of his own. Duncan responded no. At that point, Picasso picked up his lunch plate, and with brush and paint that were at the table, began painting a simple, yet detailed, portrait of Lump. The plate was inscribed to Lump, signed and dated by Picasso, then handed to Duncan.

Reflecting on that moment, Duncan wrote that “that ceramic souvenir was symbolic of Picasso’s lifelong spontaneous generosity.”
Duncan captured this friendship and Lump’s legacy in Picasso’s works in his book Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund’s Odyssey (2006).

Wikipedia: Lump (dog)


Pablo Picasso, souvenir luncheon plate dedicated to Lump, David Douglas Duncan’s dachshund (1957). Photo by Pete Smith, courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin.

Joan Brown, Noel in the Kitchen (circa 1964).
Courtesy San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

 Joan Brown, Noel in the Kitchen  (1964), at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Painter and assemblage artist Joan Brown is considered part of the second generation of the Bay Area Figurative movement. Her best-known paintings prominently feature autobiographical scenes. This is particularly true of the works she made after she and her husband, the sculptor Manuel Neri, had their son Noel. In Noel in the Kitchen, Brown focused on the immediate domestic surroundings of her home and studio on Saturn Street, near the Twin Peaks neighborhood of San Francisco. The toddler, flanked by loyal puppies in profile, reaches up to the kitchen sink, which is stacked with a still life of dirty dishes.


Painted in a bright palette of primary hues, the work is rich in rhythm and design, with repeated colors, squares, and polka dots. At this early stage in Brown's career, her handling of paint was raw, almost wild, and resulted in thickly built-up surfaces. "I loved what happened when I was using the trowel," she remarked, "the physical exuberance of just whipping through it with a big, giant brush."

wikipedia: Joan Brown

 Jeff Koons, Puppy (1992), at the Guggenheim Bilbao

AMERICAN ARTIST JEFF KOONS, FAMOUS for his large scale cartoony sculptures, was commissioned to create a piece to be displayed at Bad Arolsen in Germany in 1992.

The resulting creation was named “Puppy,” a 43-foot-tall living plant sculpture of a West Highland terrier. Koons utilized computer modeling to construct his outlandish version of topiary sculptures common to eighteenth-century formal gardens. Koons created the piece to inspire optimism and to instill, in his own words, “confidence and security.”

In a powerful example of how life doesn’t imitate art, as Puppy facilitated a potentially disastrous security breach at the Guggenheim Bilbao. A few days before its inauguration in 1997, the museum was nearly bombed by three ETA Basque separatists posing as gardeners working on the sculpture. In addition to their incognito dress, the men carried flower pots like those on Puppy filled with 12 remote-controlled grenades. A firestorm and pursuit ensued, claiming the life of policeman Jose María Aguirre, though their plot was ultimately foiled. The plaza in which Puppy currently resides has been renamed in honor of Aguirre.

Wikipedia: Jeff Koons


Jeff Koons, Puppy (1992), at Guggenheim Bilbao. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Paolo Veronese, The Feast at the House of Levi, detail, (1573). Courtesy Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.

Paolo Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi (1573), at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

This enormous painting was created not so much to express the deeply pious feelings of its artist but to emphasize the grandeur of life in Venice.

Originally called The Last Supper, the painting caused quite a stir. The Inquisition accused the artist of heresy, then a capital sin. The work did not show enough respect for its sacred subject, it was argued, with its midgets, drunks and fools. There is even a dog in the place traditionally reserved for Mary Magdalene, and people dressed as Germans! Veronese showed some remorse and was duly acquitted. He promised to replace the dog by Mary Magdalene and to remove the Germans.

But Veronese must have felt that the power of the Inquisition was limited in Venice, because he never touched the work again. However, he did give it a less dangerous name: Feast in the House of Levi.

Wikipedia: Paolo Veronese


Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, Pair of Great Danes (1907). Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, Pair of Great Danes (1907), at the Museum of fine arts in Boston
Anna Hyatt Huntington was known for her works depicting animals, and she sculpted a number of Great Danes throughout her career, both in stone and in bronze. Granite versions included a pair for John Hayes Hammond, of Gloucester, presently in the collection of Brookgreen Gardens, the South Carolina sculpture garden founded by the Huntingtons in the 1930s. The dogs presented here were recast in the 1930s without their bases.

Wikipedia: Anna Hyatt Huntington

David Hockney, multiple works depicting his dachshunds Stanley and Boogie
In 1995, David Hockney – the iconic artist known for his captivating, pastel-hued portraits, Pop Art paintings and vivid landscapes – staged an exhibition at Yorkshire’s Salts Mill entitled Dog Days, comprising 45 paintings of his two dachshunds. At the time, the dogs Stanley and Boogie were eight and six respectively, and Hockney’s adored companions. His extensive study of them – which was three months in the making and required meticulous planning on behalf of the artist, who set up easels around his house in order to capture them quickly in various natural poses – is testament to how he cherished them. “Only the owner could have painted that,” he said, referring to the intimate portraits, to The Telegraph at the time.

Wikipedia: David Hockney

David Hockney and his pet dachshunds Stanley and Boogie photographed in front of some of the artist’s many artworks based on the dogs. Courtesy of Thames and Hudson.

Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Evening (1939). Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Evening (1939), at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
This enigmatic composition is the result of a long process of deliberation that can be traced in Hopper’s surviving preparatory drawings. Several aspects of the scene are disturbing: typical of the human protagonists of Hopper's paintings, the man and woman—presumably a couple—are self-absorbed and oblivious to each other's presence; the uncut grass and encroaching locust grove are out of character with the well-maintained house; the dog's alert stance seems a portent of some imminent danger; and the advancing darkness of evening imparts a melancholy mood. In Cape Cod Evening, Hopper presents an assemblage of carefully orchestrated dissonances that convey a generally pessimistic, skeptical attitude toward human identity and humanity’s relationship with nature.

Wikipedia: Edward Hopper

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Information about these artworks is gathered from various websites and books. 

Add comment


There are no comments yet.