Animals

Puppies, Doggies and Pugs in Art (For Dog Lovers Only!)

Magda Michalska, Aniela Rybak 11 April 2023 min Read

Dogs are man’s best friends. And if that man happens to be a painter or a sitter for a painting, their four-legged friends must be included in them too. In the end, they are our most dedicated companions and that’s why we celebrate them with this article. Meet a few of the dogs immortalized by art history.

1. William Hogarth and His Pug

Dogs in art history: William Hogarth, The Painter and his Pug, 1745, Tate Gallery, London Doggies and Pugs in Art
William Hogarth, The Painter and his Pug, 1745, Tate Britain, London, UK.

William Hogarth was truly attached to his pug. This iconic self-portrait definitely proves that. The dog is placed in the foreground in front of the image of the painter. We have to bear in mind that this was an unusual practice in the 18th century.

2. Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait

Dogs in art history: Jan van Eyck, Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife,1434, National Gallery, London
Jan van Eyck, Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, 1434, National Gallery, London, UK.

Dogs, in the symbolic language of the Netherlandish paintings, represented fidelity. We can find one in the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, one of the most mysterious paintings in art history by Jan van Eyck. The dog is one of the many symbols we can notice, there are also shoes, oranges, and a single burning candle. Furthermore, on the back wall, there is a mirror reflecting the scene with a probable self-portrait of the artist.

3. Édouard Manet, Spaniel

Dogs in art history: Doggies and Pugs in Art
Édouard Manet, King Charles Spaniel, c. 1866, National Art Gallery, Washington, DC, USA.

Édouard Manet is not particularly well-known for painting dogs, but this one is just so cute. It is painted in an Impressionistic style that perfectly depicts the texture of the soft and curly fur. We can almost feel how soft it is!

4. Peter Paul Rubens, Hercules’ Dog

Dogs in art history: Peter Paul Rubens, Hercules' Dog Discovers Purple Dye, c.1636
Peter Paul Rubens, Hercules’ Dog Discovers Purple Dye, c.1636, Musée Bonnat-Helleu, Bayonne, France.

Hercules’ dog significantly contributed to art history because it discovered purple dye. According to the legend, while running on the beach the dog bit a sea snail and dyed his mouth purple. Clever boy.

5. Thomas Gainsborough, Cottage Girl with Dog

Dogs in art history: Thomas Gainsborough, Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher,
Thomas Gainsborough, Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, 1785, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.

Thomas Gainsborough, was a master of English landscape and portraiture, here he pictures a cottage girl with a dog in her arm. Her torn-up clothes, the broken pitcher, and her bare feet indicate that she was probably from a poor family. It may seem to us that the dog is her only companion.

6. Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog

Dogs in art history: Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog. Doggies and Pugs in Art
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

It turns out that lap dogs are not a modern invention at all! Apparently, they were already popular in the times of Rembrandt. The portrayed woman is wearing a lot of jewelry and a fur stole, so we can imagine that the dog had a very luxurious life with her.

7. Anthony van Dyck, The Children of Charles I of England

Dogs in art history: Anthony van Dyck, The five eldest Children of Charles I of England with two dogs, 1637 ; Doggies and Pugs in Art
Anthony van Dyck, The Five Eldest Children of Charles I of England with Two Dogs, 1637 Royal Collection Trust, UK.

Royal families or not, they all love dogs. Even huge ones! Here the children of Charles I are portrayed with not one, but two dogs. It is a typical representation from the 17th century in which children are dressed and look as if they were adults.

8. Gustave Courbet, Self-Portrait with a Black Dog

Dogs in art history: Gustave Courbet, Self-portrait with a black dog, 1841 ; Doggies and Pugs in Art
Gustave Courbet, Self-portrait with a black dog, 1841 Petit Palais, Paris, France.

Even the biggest hipster in art history, Gustave Courbet, loved dogs. In the end, who wouldn’t? He pictured his dog right next to him, and they even look like they are wearing matching outfits!

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