This exhibition explores the Cavendish family’s enduring love for dogs, through paintings, drawings, sculpture, letters, photographs and contemporary art.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes, from royal favourites and distinguished pedigrees to determined mongrels and intelligent working dogs, are celebrated in Chatsworth’s new exhibition for 2019.
Inspired by the Duchess of Devonshire’s love for her four-legged friends, the exhibition explores stories of bravery and mischief, of working dogs and treasured companions through a myriad of paintings and objects from letters, snuff boxes, jewellery, sculpture and ceramics to embroideries, drawings and painted ceilings.
Star works from Constable, Stubbs, Gainsborough and Landseer sit alongside contemporary pieces by Lucian Freud, Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley and Elisabeth Frink to complete a wonderful celebration of dogs in art and, in the garden, artist Ben Long has created an eight-metre-high scaffolding sculpture of a dog.
The exhibition explores more than 400 years of the enduring bond between man and his faithful friend. The Cavendish family’s close association with their dogs is shown right back to the time of the 1st Duke as a child with his dog, through a poem written by Duchess Georgiana in the 18th century, a recipe for dealing with a bite from a mad dog and letters between the 9th Duke and Duchess detailing the antics of their naughty puppy Punch.
The exhibition looks at dogs from myths and legends, in cartoons and as companions as well as the way dogs have been venerated with extravagant pieces, including silver dog collars, Fabergé pieces made from precious stones such as a border terrier with rose diamond eyes, and even four-poster dog beds upholstered in silk velvet and chintz.
Highlights include Edwin Landseer’s Trial by Jury, one of the most celebrated dog paintings of the 19th century, which uses the individual characters of the breeds of dogs to satirise the legal profession. For the Duchess, one of the most poignant pieces on display is a Red Cross collar, worn by a dog trained to locate dead and wounded soldiers during the First World War.