As man’s best friends, it’s only fitting to find works of art from all eras that portray dogs. Dogs are a familiar subject to the paintings of many famous artists. In fact, some dog paintings end up being the artist’s most well-known work of art.
It would take a lifetime to recognize every painting that features a dog. So, we’ve picked out 10 of the most popular and famous dog paintings.
The 10 Popular and Famous Dog Paintings
1. Cave Canem
|Date Created:||2nd Century BC|
The ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii have several floor mosaics of dogs. One of the most iconic of these mosaics is the one located in the House of the Tragic Poet. It depicts a large black dog with sharp teeth and claws. You’ll also find the words “Cave Canem” etched underneath the dog, which translates to “beware of dog.”
While the artist of this mosaic is unknown, one can predict that dogs were a valued part of daily life in this ancient civilization because of the time spent on this mosaic. After all, today’s dog warning signs aren’t as elaborate as this one.
2. A Friend in Need
A Friend in Need is a part of a series of 18 paintings called Dogs Playing Poker. Most of the paintings in this series are of anthropomorphic dogs playing a game of poker. All the paintings often have a comical and whimsical feel to them as the dogs engage in the same activities as their human counterparts
What makes A Friend in Need stand out is that the viewer can see a bulldog helping another bulldog cheat by slipping a card beneath the table. Many dog owners can relate to this action as they may have experienced the undying loyalty of their canine friends.
The Dogs Playing Poker series didn’t really garner serious attention from art aficionados until decades later. In 2015, the first painting of the series sold at an auction for $658,000.
3. Head of a Dog
Edvard Munch is a famous Norwegian painter who developed a love for dogs as he started to withdraw from society. The death of his mother and sister in 1908 led him to seclude himself from people. During this time, he started to love and care for his dogs, and they often became the subjects of his paintings.
It’s pretty safe to say that Edvard Munch is a true dog lover as many of his best paintings are of dogs. Other famous Munch paintings include Large and Small Dog and St Bernard Dog in Snow. Much of his artwork are visual depictions of interior psychological states, so studying and viewing his paintings can often evoke strong or intense emotions.
Pablo Picasso was an animal lover and often painted and sketched different animals, including dogs. Dog is a sketch of his own Dachshund, Lump. This painting of Lump was originally a gift to Picasso’s friend and photographer, David Douglas Duncan. Duncan had introduced Picasso to Lump, and Picasso eventually adopted him.
Lump quickly became a beloved part of Picasso’s life, and he lived with some of Picasso’s other pets, including his Boxer named Yan and goat named Esmerelda.
5. Pride Of Parenthood
Norman Rockwell is an American painter known for his ability to tell stories through a single image. Pride Of Parenthood shows a boy and a dog watching over the dog’s litter of puppies.
The dog looks over at the boy with obvious joy and pride in her facial expression, while the boy has a shy, yet proud, look on his face as he feeds the puppies. This imagery perfectly encapsulates the signature nostalgia and idealism that’s found in many Rockwell paintings.
6. Portrait of Maurice
Many know Andy Warhol for his influence on the pop art movement and his exploration of the relationship between art, consumerism, and celebrity culture. However, he seems to have a soft side for pets and has completed a good number of pet portraits.
Portrait of Maurice is a pet portrait that was commissioned by Gabrielle Keiller. Andy Warhol used polaroid shots of Maurice the Dachshund as references for this portrait. The painting was created with polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.
7. A King Charles Spaniel
Edouard Manet is a French painter of the Impressionist era. Much of his artwork revolves around painting scenery and objects found in his everyday life. This portrait of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel uses innovative brushstrokes to capture the movement of the dog’s sweeping loose curls.
The painting also reflects the elements of everyday life that Manet liked to capture. While the dog is sitting on a fancy pillow, its toy is also resting on the pillow. This toy takes some of the formality out of the portrait and inserts a subtle nod to playfulness.
8. The Dog
|Date Created:||Circa 1819-1823|
This painting by Francisco Goya was never meant to be exhibited to the public, but it ended up becoming one of the most famous dog paintings of all time. It’s a part of Goya’s Black Paintings, which were created later in Goya’s life. These paintings were painted directly onto the walls of his house and have intensely dark and haunting themes.
At first glance, The Dog is a relatively simple painting with a brown backdrop and a dog’s head peeking out from a dark brown landscape. However, there’s much to examine, such as the dog’s facial expression, its positioning, and the use of dark colors. The meaning and interpretation of the painting is still up for debate and can spark some heated conversations.
9. A Couple of Foxhounds
This painting was most likely a commissioned piece requested by Reverend Thomas Vyner. Vyner was a skilled hunter that also successfully bred hounds, and George Stubbs worked for the Vyner family while he lived in Lincolnshire.
Stubbs was known for his skill in painting animals, which was most likely due to his love for studying anatomy. Along with painting dogs, he was also known for painting horses and exotic wildlife. He would often paint the animals in the foreground first and then fill in the background around them.
Diogenes is a Greek philosopher who is considered as one of the founders of Cynicism. He was known for living a life that was independent of societal norms and structures. Many people of his time described his behavior as dog-like, and it seems as though he proudly bore that image.
Jean-Léon Gérôme’s painting of Diogenes portrays Diogenes lighting a lantern in the daylight as symbolism of his search for honest men. He’s surrounded by dogs, which could be a nod to his reputation for having doggish virtues.
While many things in human societies have changed over the years, the relationship that people have with dogs has remained fairly constant. It’s safe to say that people love dogs and enjoy making artwork that features them.
It’s fun to see dogs make it into an artist’s artwork. Whether it’s a glamorous pet portrait or a painting of everyday life, we hope that the art of painting dogs will continue to carry on with future generations of artists.
Featured Image Credit: raheel9630, Pixabay