Tag Archives: Dogs

PUNCS Conference Talk 2015

PUNCSTalk2015Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of giving a short 10 minute presentation at the inaugural event for PUNCS: Plymouth University Nineteenth Century Studies.

PUNCS is a fantastic new interdisciplinary forum through which researchers working on themes across the globe which speak to the long nineteenth-century can connect and discuss their research. In time PUNCS hopes to foster opportunities for collaboration and this was particularly apparent in the one-day conference event that I attended.

The last panel in particular, which looked prevalently at the methods through which every day offences were reported between 1880 and 1920 demonstrated strong links between people’s research topics as well as the overall potential that collaborative projects hold.

My own talk was titled ‘Canine Character: Reading the Dog in Victorian Visual Culture’ and briefly addressed some research points that have interested me recently. In particular I have been interested in exploring the impact of the dog fancy when it came to canine visuals and the notion of ‘reading’ a show dog for its aesthetic appeal. The impact of this move towards canine connoisseurship, I propose, had significant implications concerning how audiences consequently came to view dogs in imagery. The potential construction of a readable canine physiognomy and/or phrenology and the subsequent implications of such are of a particular interest to me.

The rest of the talks were intellectually rich and impressively diverse, including a talk on the reception of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists in mid-Victorian Britain by Dr. Jenny Graham, a reading of Plymouth’s own Cottonian Collection by PhD researcher Susan Leedham, an exploration into the theme of Mercy by Dr. James Gregory, and some insights into the lives of the working-class female when it came to Mechanics’ Institutes in Victorian Britain by PhD Researcher Doug Watson.

If you would like to know more about PUNCS then I encourage you to go and explore their site. No doubt there will be more engaging events upcoming.

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AAH New Voices Conference 2014

aah2014titleTheme: A Picture of Health: Representations and Imaginations of Wellbeing and Illness.

Talk Time: 20 Minutes.

Title: Class Contagions and Canine Culprits: Rapid Representations and the Middle Class Imagination in Victorian Britain.

Abstract:

“in all large towns there are dangerous classes among the dogs as well as among the human population […] whose delight it is to bark and bite in an indiscriminate manner, and who, if they are once affected by the fatal virus, become at once active propagators of it far and wide”

‘Dogs and Dog Law’, All The Year Round, 1886, p. 426.

During the Victorian period rabies (or hydrophobia, as it was known in humans) gained a lot of momentum in the imagination of the public. Media depictions were frequent, laws were passed, and people had many different ideas about what turned a dog mad.

Yet despite public concerns regarding rabies, ‘mad dogs’, and the notorious ‘dog days’ of summer, there were very few incidents of confirmed rabies throughout the period. What, then, caused such avid fear and attention from the Victorian public?

This talk will explore one of the factors.

Looking at imagery representing rabies, this talk will propose that the middle classes feared rabies as more than just a disease. Instead rabies became viewed as a contagion—propagated by the lower and dangerous classes—which had the potential to attack and corrupt the wellbeing of middle class bodies, values and morals.

This middle class imagination, it will be proposed, was reinforced by visual representations of rabies; which served to strengthen notions of mad dogs as violent, law-breaking, and dangerous curs of the streets rather than the afflicted and ailing animals that they were.

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The New Police Regulations of Dogs (Detail), The Graphic, 1885, p.697.

The V&A Presents: Paw Prints

Last month, to commemorate the end of Crufts, Cathrin Yarnell decided to showcase some of the V&A’s many dog-related prints, drawings and paintings. Her post, titled ‘Paw Prints‘, can be seen here and I recommend it to avid dog-lovers and canine art appreciators alike.

Personally I was delighted to see that some of the canine motifs that my thesis will cover are presented in this doggy display.

The dog mourner is readily shown with Landseer’s prominent The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner, while the dog as a saviour (in this case of children) is shown through the typically noble Newfoundland in a print simply titled The Newfoundland Dog.

The rising popularity and diligence of dog portraiture is represented readily in the image of Rodney by Byran Edward Duppa. Yarnell is eager to point out that this portrait of Rodney “has been executed with all of the care of a human portrait”, a concept that shall be explored in my own work.

The final print in Yarnell’s post does well to illustrate a range of canine motifs that were popular in Victorian Britain–The dog as saviour (or both man and child), the noble dog of the aristocracy, the dutiful and humble dog of the countryside, and the dog as comfort and aid to beggars, to name a few. It is nice to know that such motifs still capture people’s imagination even today.

University of Plymouth Conference, The ‘Arts’ in History 2012

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Theme: How the ‘arts’, and the way they have been studied over time, offers an insight to societies of the past and present.

Talk Time: 20 Minutes

Title: Canine Contexts: Understanding the Role of the Dog in British Victorian art.

Location: Plymouth University, Roland Levinsky Building.

Date: 15th June

Abstract: Once one asserts the notion that art reflects the time within which it was made, it can be proposed that every element within visual culture comes with its own notable history; influenced by the society and culture within which it was produced.

This paper aims to explore one seemingly unassuming, element within Victorian visual culture; that of the dog.

Using the painting Work (1852-65) by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) as a case study, this paper will demonstrate the significance that social and cultural contexts played within the placing of the dog in both fine art works and other visual mediums of the Victorian era. Looking at a multitude of issues; from pet keeping and dog shows to dog thieves and ‘mad dogs’; each dog within Work shall be explored and elaborated upon within this paper, including the widely unmentioned or unnoticed ‘fifth dog’ in the artwork.

Through this, visual representations of dogs within Victorian visual culture shall be argued as adding a canine context to artworks of the time; reflecting wider issues such as those of class, human identity and the crossing of public and domestic spheres, and contributing to a more profound understanding of the artworks they occupy.

The eventual realisation that viewers should gain by the end of the talk is that not only are representations of dogs within Victorian art significant, but they are also dependant on an in-depth understanding of the historical, social and cultural contexts within which they were produced.

Force of Habit in Punch, or the London Charivari , London, England, October 22, 1864, New Readerships, p. 168.

Force of Habit in Punch, or the London Charivari , London, England, October 22, 1864, New Readerships, p. 168.

In Pictures: Dogs Through the Centuries

If you’re as fascinated by dog-related art as I am then pop over to the Tate Blogs right now where you can find a collection of dog portraiture on display as a slide show.

The blog entry can be found here and features brilliant artworks such as William Hogarth’s The Painter and his Pug, Thomas Gainsborough’s Tristram and Fox, and Sir Edwin Henry Landseer’s Dignity and Impudence.

A particular favourite of mine (besides the obvious Landseer pieces) is William Blake’s Cerberus, depicted in a style that is typically Blake. it is the facial expressions on this hound of hell that has me looking at the artwork with fascination.