When studying the role of the dog in Victorian art it is quite common to encounter little anecdotes and stories pertaining to an artist’s experiences, either with their own dog or a canine sitter of notable character. However none have come to be quite as distinct to me as those of James Yates Carrington and his companion, Teufel the terrier.
In 1886 the Pall Mall Gazette ran a feature titled ‘An Animal Painter and His Models’ in which they explored the story behind ‘the fisher-dog’ that had gained popularity in the print market (after the original three paintings had been displayed on the line the Royal Academy in 1883, also receiving popular favour).[i]
‘Every one has seen in the print shops the three tableaux of the dog turned fisherman, called “Sport by Proxy” ’, the paper observed, ‘showing a fine fox terrier (with a bit of bull in him) sitting by the riverbank’. Another three tableaux, noted to also be ‘on the line’ in the Academy during their 1885 exhibition were also expected to be equally popular.[ii]
The dog occupying these images was Carrington’s terrier Teufel, and the popularity of both artist and terrier rose significantly from that point onwards.
In fact Teufel gained such attention that his escapades were regularly published in the Pall Mall Gazette (and other newspapers, which reproduced the articles with Carrington’s permission)[iii] and Carrington even endeavoured to write his own biography of Teufel’s life. The resulting book was titled Teufel the Terrier.
While Carrington himself had preferred the titles ’My Model of a Dog’ or ‘Teufel the Fox Terrier with a Bit of Bull in Him’ its final title was chosen for its three T’s, which had a jingle to them that was designed to attract readers with its alliteration. ‘Poor Teuf!’, Carrington lamented in the first chapter of the book, ‘that I should have sacrificed thee in the cause of alliteration and a good line for the cover!’.[iv]
Teufel the Terrier went on to be immensely popular and enjoyed multiple print runs. Some of the editions were meant as a luxury—bound in ‘handsome and substantial form and printed on specifically made paper’[v] as a Christmas present—whereas others became accessible for as little as one shilling.
In addition to recounting tales from the life of Teufel, Carrington also used this book as an opportunity to provide the public with insights into how he worked and what the life of an animal painter might be like. Interestingly, in one encounter, with two potential American buyers, he listed the prices of two of his works as £40 and £150[vi] (higher than the prices of other popular canine artists of the time, such as Charles Burton Barber).
Yet, had it not been for Teufel, James Yates Carrington may have never received the praise and public attention that be managed to muster at the time. This is something that Carrington himself admits in his canine biography.
Born in April 1857, at Heathfield, Stockport, James Yates Carrington was the fourth son of Mr. Samuel Ratcliffe Carrington (the head of a firm of Stockport hat manufacturers). Carrington received his first lesson in painting from Mr. J.H.E. Partington and went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. However, at the time of purchasing Teufel Carrington was not an animal painter at all and, instead, had tried to establish himself as a landscape painter.
Still, upon receiving Teufel Carrington’s artistic attentions started to shift and he found himself more and more invested in depicting his faithful companion Teufel. In an obituary for Carrington the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser notes that this was a turning point for Carrington’s career as ‘when about to relinquish art he began the series of “Teufel” pictures, now known throughout the world’. [vii]
In his own recollection Carrington also highlights his decision:
‘One night as I was smoking my pipe I reflected as follows, addressing my remarks to Teufel: “Why should I waste my substance any longer in painting umbrageous landscapes, and bosky dells, and golden commons? The public don’t want them—that is very evident—and there are hundreds of fellows who are attending to the same departments of Nature. I will go in for dogs; and Teufel, my lad, thou shalt earn thy living’.[viii]
Whether or not Carrington was truly so close to forsaking the arts altogether is not entirely certain; such a story makes for a good tale but it pays to be sceptical of such neat narratives. However, what cannot be denied is the significance that Teufel had in this decision and the success that came from it.
Through a shrewd business decision, a love of his dog, or (most likely) both Carrington defined his career that day, all on the basis of his interactions with his own canine companion. As as result Carrington’s career acts as a significant case study for the developing human/canine relations of the Victorian period; demonstrating a beneficial relationship between artist and dog, the dialogue of which became manifest through Carrington’s many artworks.
Indeed when talking of Carrington in 1886 the Pall Mall Gazette makes note that Carrington accredited ‘much of his good fortune to his dog Teufel, who gave him his ideas, and was also the model, for it is a lifelike portrait of his excellent fox terrier which now adorns the walls of hundreds of the houses of sporting men’.[ix]
Carrington’s own accounts of Teufel also indicate that his relationship with Teufel was a sincere and deeply caring one. Despite being named for the German word for devil (owing to his initial mischievous nature) Carrington speaks fondly of ‘Teuf’ throughout his canine biography.
In his book there are also multiple references to the idea that Teufel wasn’t simply owned by an artist but was also initiated into the arts himself. During his devilish days, when first introduced to Carrington’s studio, there is one recollection in which Teufel had escaped another attempt to restrain him and had devoured many of Carrington’s work tools:
‘What a scene of havoc and destruction lay before me!…Another heap further on included a paint-box the lid of which had been torn off. A sheaf of brushes had been chawed up, a bundle of tubes lay scattered about, and the biggest tube, which contained what we call flake-white was munched to pieces…
From that day I have never wondered that Teufel should have taken to the Fine Arts so kindly. After swallowing brushes and tubes, he had no alternative’.[x]
Further accounts in the book go on to describe how Teufel was both artistically inclined and the artistic inspiration for Carrington’s work.
The recollection of ‘Teufel’s First Taste of the Fine Arts’ was also featured in the Graphic in 1891, accompanied with the high praise that ‘Everyone has heard of Teufel—the famous fox-terrier whose physiognomy Mr. Yates Carrington has introduced into so many pictures, and whose premature death caused his artist-master to publish what is perhaps the most elaborate canine biography ever written’.[xi]
Teufel, it seems, also came to be a companion in Carrington’s life when he most needed him, which further validates Carrington’s feelings of Teufel as both subject and artistic companion. This is seen in Carrington’s recollection of an incident where Teufel ran away during the early stages of their relationship:
‘I didn’t tell anyone of my trouble, for I knew they would only laugh at me for grieving about such a trifle as a terrier. But I had got to love the little fellow, having no one else at that tim, and I used to talk to him about Art, and slang the public taste in his presence for declining to recognise the merits of my Munich interiors, my Burnham Beeches all ablaze with colour, or my cattle knee-deep in the liquid Thames.’[xii]
This perceived sharing of the arts between an owner and his dog not only makes for an interesting story today but also seemed to catch the public’s attention at the time, as the popularity of Teufel the Terrier and Carrington’s work demonstrates. In fact in 1891 Carrington was able to run an exhibit of artworks primarily dedicated to Teufel.
On the topic of the exhibition the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser acknowledged this relationship and its distinctive appeal, noting that:
‘There are many curious accidents in an artist’s life, and the merest chance has discovered the line of art in which excellence is to be obtained. In Mr. Carrington’s case the sudden change from landscape artist to animal painting is peculiar and almost unique. The story is told in the book of Teufel’s life, and to that we must refer our readers. Suffice it to say that the affection and attachment between Mr. Carrington and his dog ripened into a result which has given to the world a charming, almost romantic story and a set of pictures of dog life, unsurpassed by any living animal painter’.[xiii]
As you may have already noticed, it was Teufel’s death that prompted Carrington to publish his book dedicated to the life of his much loved terrier. The passing of Teufel is a further testament to Carrington’s attachment to Teufel and Teufel was buried with the following dedication:
The first part of this epitaph was repeated in the advertisement of Carrington’s Teufel exhibition, further authenticating the importance of Teufel to his owner’s artistic career and life as a whole.
Carrington passed away only a few years later, on Sunday 1st May, 1892 (aged 35). In various obituaries he was remembered for his relationship with Teufel. On the 28th of May the Pall Mall Gazette advertised ‘To Every Lover of a Dog’ the auctioning off of Carrington’s pictures and possessions, as well as the right to rent his studio. The article highlights, in particular, ‘The Strolling Players’—Carrington’s last painting to include Teufel before his passing—which is noted, again, to have hung on the line when exhibited in the Royal Academy.[xiv]
The advertisement for this auction (as well as the quote below) hints at a large body of work, in oils, watercolours, etchings, photographs, sketches, which makes me lament a little at the scarcity of Carrington’s work in museums, auctions, or even in an online search.
‘When I look round my studio to-night, smoking a contemplative pipe for the purpose of inspiring this chapter, I cannot help thinking of what my old dog has done for me…As you come down the fight of steps which leads you into the studio just a glance at the panelled wall on your right. You see Teufel everywhere—Teufel with a pipe in his mouth, with a rod in front of him, with little Dorothy, Teufel in the house boat, Teufel ratting, Teufel watching a beetle crawling on his tail. I quite lose myself in trying to count how many times I painted him’.[xv]
Through the quantity of his work, his own writings, and the accounts of various newspapers, it is undeniable that the influence of Teufel on Carrington’s work was both significant and understood as being observably unique at the time. The relationship the two shared ultimately defined Carrington’s career while simultaneously winning over the public, propagating Teufel’s status as a canine celebrity.
As such we should look to Carrington and his dog Teufel as a notable example of canine/human relationships in the field of Art History; someone who defined his life, his artwork, and the canine art and print market through the inseparable bond he had with his devilish terrier (with a bit of bull in him).
‘Teufel the Terrier is dead, but his fame will live for ever. From the day when, immortalised by the brush of his master, Mr. J. Yates Carrington, he first appeared in the public…he has been the friend of thousands who knew neither his name nor his history. Year after year people used to look for the “fox-terrier with just a touch of the bull in him” on the walls of the Royal Academy…This story of his life is illustrated by capital reproductions of the sketched and finished works which made Teufel known to every lover of dogs in the Kingdom’.[xvi]
[i] ‘Death of Mr. Yates Carrington’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Tuesday 3rd May, 1892.
[ii] ‘An Animal Painter and His Models’, Pall Mall Gazette, Wednesday 26th May, 1886.
[iii] ‘The Story of the Fisher-Dog’, The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, Saturday 12th June, 1886.
[iv] J. Yates Carrington & Charles Morley, Teufel the Terrier; Or the Life and Adventures of an Artist’s Dog, 1891, p. 2.
[v] ‘Teufel the Terrier’, Pall Mall Gazette, Tuesday 18th November, 1890.
[vi] Teufel the Terrier, 1891, p. 58.
[vii] ‘Death of Mr. Yates Carrington’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Tuesday 3rd May, 1892.
[viii] Teufel the Terrier, 1891, p. 25.
[ix] ‘An Animal Painter and His Models’, Pall Mall Gazette, 1886.
[x] Teufel the Terrier, 1891, Pp. 7-8.
[xi] ‘Teufel’s First Taste of the Fine Arts’, The Graphic, Saturday 31st January, 1891.
[xii] Teufel the Terrier, 1891, p. 12.
[xiii] ‘Teufel the Terrier’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Friday 16th January 1891.
[xiv] ‘To Every Lover of a Dog; The Late Mr. Yates Carrington’s Pictures’, Pall Mall Gazette, Saturday 28th May 1892.
[xv] Teufel the Terrier, 1891, P.p. 41-43.
[xvi] ‘Christmas Books’, The Graphic, Saturday 20th December, 1890.