Canines of The Art World: John Singer Sargeant’s “Pointy” (1885)

His Self Portrait 1907

I’m super excited to talk about this one. You probably know about John Singer Sargent already, but if you don’t, I definitely recommend learning about him.

He was basically an art-making machine! In his life, he created over 900 oil paintings and 2000 watercolor paintings.

When he was growing up, he could never stay in school very long, but his parents made up for that by traveling all over Europe and letting him learn from the older art masters firsthand by visiting and viewing their work in-person. While he didn’t get much of a formal education, he was actually quite smart and pretty quickly became fluent in French, Italian, English, and German. 

He showed a strong interest and aptitude for art pretty early on, and his parents did their best to support him by getting amazing teachers for him and helping him get into prominent art schools.

He did really well in those schools and quickly became recognized as an art genius. In most of his beginning work, he focused on landscape paintings, which I think he probably wanted to stick with forever. However, one of his teachers, Carolus-Duran, finally pushed him towards portraiture, which was a lot easier for artists to get commissions for and become more successful.

That same teacher became one of the subjects in his earlier portraits in 1879, and that piece helped push him forward in his popularity. I can tell more about the rest of his career, but I think you probably get the general idea, and for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the paintings he did of dogs.

One of my favorite things about his earlier portraits that people don’t seem to talk about much, is that he painted a few with dogs in them. Between the years 1878-1886, he painted “Miss BeatriceTownsend” (1881),“Robert de Cévrieux, ( détail)” (1879), and finally, “Pointy” (1885).

Canines of The Art World: John Singer Sargeant’s “Pointy” (1885)

The story behind “Pointy” was particularly nice, since it was actually a part of a set of portraits he had made for his friend Louise Burckhardt and her family. He had created it from some extra sketches he had drawn while he was visiting their house for the portraits, so I imagine it was a really nice surprise for them.

(He is a bit similar to “Chappy”, isn’t it? If you don’t know who he is yet, check out this post as well 😀 -> My Dog “Chappy” & His Bio)

This story particularly stood out to me because I love how even though that was nearly 150 years ago, the feelings and appreciation from art and especially art as gifts was not all that different from the way it is now. I very easily imagine how the Burckhardts must have felt when they received a painting of the dog that was no doubt a treasured member of their family. I love how I get to see watch that first hand whenever HiRO completes a commission and we get to present it to the family.

It’s definitely something I’ll never get tired of seeing, and I hope that everyone get a chance to experience that feeling at some point in their lives.

Till my next post, have a fantastic time!

Anna Ito

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