A review of Reigning Cats and Dogs: the exhibition, by Canine Art Historian, Nick Waters and Dog World magazine
Many lovers of the dog in art will have read the book, now there’s the exhibition of the same name. Reigning Cats and Dogs runs at Dogs in Art at the Stockbridge Gallery in Hampshire until November 3. Unlike the book, which is a scholarly study, the exhibition takes a light-hearted look at these domestic pets that gradually come to reign supreme in our home.
This is the first time cats have ventured over the canine dominated threshold of the Stockbridge Gallery. In curating the exhibition, which is being held in conjunction with the Society of Feline Artists, gallery owner Victoria Armstrong has selected works that show there is far more to the cat in art than the chocolate box/biscuit box image familiar to all of us.
Dogs, though, by no means take a back seat to their feline friends, with an eclectic and colourful mix from Coral Hutchings’ almost photographic portrait of a Golden Retriever and Catherine Ingleby’s French Bulldog, to images created with little detail and often less colour that manage to say so much about the character of the subject, as exemplified by Tor Hildyard.
Tor is an award-winning printmaker with a fascination for experimentation who has exhibited both nationally and internationally. She works from a studio in Worcestershire and her subjects are drawn from life as well as her imagination. In 2011, Tor was accepted to show at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
Canadian-born Mychael Barratt is also well represented. A fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, Mychael has used his imagination and, in his unique bold style, created a series of prints depicting what he thinks could be dogs artists may own and how they would have painted them. The results include Damien Hurst’s dog covered in coloured spots and Van Gogh’s dog beside a vase of Sunflowers, its head in an ‘Elizabethan’ collar.
Kim McRae is another featured artist who works in a sketchy, loose style and manages to bring her subjects to life with masterful use of colour. Since retiring from a career teaching art and English she has been indulging her passion for breeding Smooth Haired Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs while working as a professional artist. Unlike Tor and Mychael, much of whose dog art focuses on generic dogs, Kim concentrates on breeds.
Like Kim, Diane Haddon-Moore portrays breeds in a contemporary and unusual style with the striking imagery often highlighted with vibrant colours which take on a jewel-like intensity through the use of a deep gloss finish.
Included in the three-dimensional exhibits are bronzes by noted equine artist, Deborah Burt, who in 2006 won the Society of Equine Artists Devon Art Week Scholarship. More recently the majority of her commissions have been canine, including an ongoing project featuring hounds from the South Dorset Hunt.
The work of all the artists in the exhibition can be viewed on the Stockbridge Gallery website www.dogsinart.com