Dignity and Impudence 1839
I wrote my MA dissertation on dogs in nineteenth-century literature, and since then animals seem to pop up everywhere in my reading. Actually, they were most likely always there, but now I take notice of them.
Throughout the Victorian Celebration, this trend has continued. Animals act as symbols that signify the wider themes in Lady Audley's Secret and The Professor. A labrador is an important character in the Sarah Waters novel I just finished earlier this evening (not Victorian, but still), while Sonnets from the Portuguese brings to mind the affectionate relationship Elizabeth Barrett Browning had with her spaniel Flush and how that's mirrored in her poetry.
So, I obeyed the sudden inclination to look through some Landseer artwork.
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) produced an incredible array of paintings featuring domestic animals and wildlife during the Victorian period -- in fact, he was commissioned to paint several portraits of Queen Victoria and the rest of the royal family, pets included. Although he is best remembered today for his lion sculptures that adorn Trafalgar Square, it's his portraits of animal that are, to me, the most poignant.
Some of his representations are rather fanciful and anthropomorphic by twenty-first century standards (and some are disturbingly violent), but I feel he truly captured the spirit and individuality of animals. Landseer's work transcends the portrayal of animals as mere accessories to their aristocratic masters. I'm looking forward to finding out more about him and other nineteenth-century artists as I continue my fascinating research on the Victorians.
Here's a small sample of his paintings...
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
at Home at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England 1843
The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner 1837
The Arab Tent 1866
Laying Down the Law 1840
The Monkey Who Had Seen the World 1827
And this last one makes me smile. It reminds me of my own terrier who is always begging for food with a similar pleading expression. It's as if he's saying, 'Please, sir, I want some more.'
Macaw, Love Birds, Terrier, and Spaniel Puppies
Belonging to Her Majesty 1839
P.S. Just scouted out this book containing Landseer's private drawings. I want it!