Exhibition Highlights Artful Ways We Celebrate Animal Companions

A new exhibition at Shelburne Museum explores how our love of animals manifests itself in a myriad of ways in our domestic lives, including paintings and carvings, ceramics and rugs.

Ranging in date from the 18th century to the present day, the selected decorative art objects explore complex themes related to animal/human bonds, including domestication, emotional connections, and ethical treatment. Creature Comfort: Animals in the House highlights the creative ways animal forms have been adapted to create a wide range of beautiful and functional household objects that celebrate our beloved companions.

Creature Comfort: Animals in the House opens on February 1.

“Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb loved her dogs. At one point she had five poodles, and her sister gave her a throw pillow with all five of them depicted. Animals remained a theme throughout her folk art collecting from ceramics to rugs to carvings, providing inspiration for the exhibition, which also highlights contemporary collectors and artists,” said Kory Rogers, Chief Curator and Francie and John Downing Curator of American Art.

Mrs. Webb’s celebration of her animal companions wasn’t limited to her time. In fact, pet ownership is a growing trend. According to a 2017/18 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 85 million families, or 65 percent of all households in the United States include at least one animal companion. Experts expect these numbers to continue to grow in the coming years. The statistics worldwide track similarly, underlining our innate need for companionship, a hallmark trait specific to mammals.

The exhibition is organized thematically by animal species and displayed in settings designed to evoke domestic interior spaces. Creature Comfort: Animals in the House is on view in Colgate Gallery, Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education from February 1 through August 23, 2020.

About Shelburne Museum: Founded in 1947 by pioneering folk art collector Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960), Shelburne Museum is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and Vermont’s foremost public resource for visual art and material culture. The Museum’s 45-acre campus is comprised of 39 buildings including the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education and Webb Gallery featuring important American paintings by Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, John Singleton Copley, and many more. For more information, please visit shelburnemuseum.org.


Attributed to Adaline Havemeyer Frelinghuysen, Poodle Throw Pillow, date unknown. Wool, 15 x 15 x 5 in. Photography by Andy Duback.

Egyptian, Statue of Bastet, 664-30 BCE. Bronze, 7 x 2 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. Courtesy of Sandy Lerner Caticons
Collection. Image courtesy Shelburne Museum.

The Haas Brothers, Pair of Guard Beasts: Brooke Shields, 2016. Icelandic sheepskin, silver-plated cast
bronze, and ebony, 48 x 30 x 30 in. each. Courtesy of R & Company, New York. Image courtesy Shelburne Museum.