Tuesday, January 11, 2011

felines and canines in life and art

"The Society Lion," by 
John Henry Dolph,
1835-1903
      Cats and dogs, as the companions of the daily life of the human race, have played no small part in art. There are mousers and dogs depicted in the genre paintings of all nations, ancient and modern. In the ancient art of Japan the quaint native cat frequently appeared as an ornamental accessory. There is a Japanese picture in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in which the interesting Japanese cat adorns the boudoir of a lady. Another Japanese painting in the same building, which belongs to the grand old school of Tosa, represents all the animals gathered about the death-bed of Lord Buddha to go mouse-hunting, and when she returned he was dead.
      Quite famous were the cats of ancient Egypt which were consecrated to the worship of Bubastis (Pasht), known as the mythical goddess of cats. This ancient adulation of cats was handed down to the followers of Mahomet, and to this day one of the features of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca is the father or mother of cats, and old man or woman mounted on a camel surrounded by baskets filled with cats. It is stated by some authorities that cats did not enter Europe until the Middle Ages, but this fact seems doubtful, in view of the large number of felines found at the time in the East. The Italian painters introduced cats into their compositions, and so did the Dutch, who were particularly happy in the delineation of composed and stolid tabbies. Sir Joshua Reynold's cats were remarkably knowing, and his kitten-faced girls still please posterity. Hogath's cats, with their long bodies and thin, pointed faces, have a character of their own.
      The leading cat-painter of America is Mr. J. H. Dolph, whom everyone knows, for his works appear constantly at exhibitions. He has worked and studied much abroad, at Paris, Antwerp, and Rome. Mr. Dolph excels in the delineation of feline and canine character. Observe the ingenuous admiration of the four feline young ladies for the stolid pug who allows himself to be the object of their hero-worship. Mark the look of dawning intelligence and observation on the faces of the three puppies in their basket home.
      Lambert, Henriette Ronner, and Mr. Dolph are the most successful cat-painters of the time. They all show fondness for the Angora type, with its delicate grace and exotic sentiment. The Dutch masters were fond of hunting-dogs of various breeds, and did justice to them in their works. Landseer set the fashion of his generation in England for pictured dogs. Other English painters of the domestic genre school have handled dogs ably. The study of the canine race in art is always valuable. As for Mr. Dolph, he has proved himself an able painter of dogs, and the paintings from which these reproductions were made speak for themselves as proofs of his ability. by Charlotte Adams, 1894 for the Quarterly Illustrator