Author: Joanna Bodenweber
I have been a casual collector of dog images for some time. Antique stores, flea markets, yard sales, and auctions have all been good places to find photos, paintings, prints, and carvings that people have created of their beloved companions. As a dog lover, I am drawn to these images because I can relate to the feelings that these creators had for their companions. As a designer, I appreciate the variety of forms, colors, and compositions, and the creativity of their makers.
One of my favorite images is of an elegant woman in formal dress with an equally refined whippet at her feet (Fig. 1). She gazes at him/her lovingly, and her resting arm replicates the dog’s linear pose. It is a carefully composed and graceful image. However, what I like best is that the sitter wanted her dog in this portrait with her, and the photographer saw the unique opportunity to capture the regal qualities of both subjects.
In contrast is a carving that a certain F. Burke made of his Sheltie or collie, S.R.W. King of Hampshire “Chinook”, in 1950 (Fig. 2). I picked up this piece at the Chelsea Flea Market in Vermont years ago. This wonderful little piece of folk art is another example of the love and pride that we take in our animals—whether they are champions or rescues from a shelter. Keeping images close celebrates them while they are with us and gives us fond memories when they are gone.
A recent find was a 19th-century hand-colored print of a girl with her dog and the phrase “Love me, love my dog” (Fig. 3). This quote is attributed to St. Bernard in 1150, “Qui me amat, amet, et canem memum,” which translates to: “Who loves me will love my dog also.” A message about accepting someone—flaws and all.
Image captions from L to R: Fig 1: Woman and Whippet; Fig. 2: F. Burke, Chinook; Fig. 3: Girl and dog, Love me, love my dog.
Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb was also a dog lover (Fig. 4). In the Museum’s most recent newsletter, Chief Curator Kory Rogers wrote: “Several candid photographs found in Shelburne Museum’s archives captured the special love that Museum founder Electra H. Webb (1888–1960) had for her pet dogs. These not only included the Shelburne terriers she and her family bred for fox hunting, but also an oodle of five poodles, the names of which were stitched onto a needle-work pillow found in her beloved Vermont country home, known as The Brick House. The sherbet-colored pillow’s design was most likely a commercially available pattern that was “Electra-fied,” or personalized, by adding the names of Mrs. Webb’s pets—Leita, Carina, Marlene, Valerie, and Wilfred—beneath each dog.” (Fig. 5)
Image captions from L to R: Fig 4: Unidentified maker, Electra Havemeyer Webb on the porch of Nehasane with her dogs, 1948. Gelatin silver print, 8 X 10 in. Collection of Shelburne Museum Archives. PS3.2-75.; Fig. 5: Attributed to Adaline Havemeyer Frelinghuysen, Poodle Throw Pillow, date unknown. Wool, 15 X 15 X 5 in. Museum purchase, from the Estate of J. Watson Webb, Jr., BH-2616.
One of the best things about having any collection, whether physical or virtual, is appreciating the things that are alike and the details that are different within that collection. While we are staying close to home and cannot visit our Museum’s amazing collections in person, it is a good time to appreciate our own animal companions and the collections we may already have to enjoy.
Enjoy additional images from the author’s collection:
Image captions from L to R (top): Photograph, taken in Boston, 1959 or 1960; Photograph, Jefferson Family Farm, Norwalk, Ohio, 1890s (the author’s great great grandparents); (bottom) Anne Davis, untitled, 2008; and Photographer unknown, family pet.
Joanna Bodenweber, Graphic Designer