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His Master's Voice and Other Famous Dog Paintings

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Did you know that the RCA logo was originally a famous painting by Francis Barraud called His Master's Voice? For those of you who've lived in a cave for the past half century, it's a painting of a fox terrier named Nipper sitting in front of an old Gramophone listening to a sound that obviously puzzles him a bit, the voice of his deceased master. The image was so powerful in the early days of the record industry that it was adopted as the logo of the Victor Talking Machine Company, which would later on become RCA Victor in 1909. All records made by the company after that were referred to in the industry as HMV (His Master's Voice) records.

His Master's Voice Painting by Francis Barraud
Today, RCA is owned by EMI, which is also the parent company of JVC, and the HMV logo is known throughout the world. Its copyright expired in 1989, after several RCA ownership changes, so the famous dog painting of Nipper is now the property of the general public. Its latest appearance in a film was in the 2006 movie Superman Returns, when an HMV radio is shown in the home of the young Clark Kent in the opening scenes. Ironically, the HMV radio was never sold in the United States, so the prop is a dead giveaway that the film wasn't made in the US. It was in fact filmed in Australia.

Dogs Playing Cards
If you live in the United States, you have seen and most likely own at least one depiction of the famous Dogs Playing Cards paintings that were painted in the early years of the Twentieth Century. Did you know that there are actually sixteen of these paintings altogether? They were commissioned in 1903 by a company called Brown and Bigelow to be used as advertising for their cigars. The artist, C.M. Coolidge, had no idea that his works would become famous American icons. Though considered relatively cheap home décor today, the original oil paintings are worth quite a bit. On February 15, 2005, the originals of two in the set, A Bold Bluff and Waterloo, were auctioned together for $590,400. Before that time, the most ever paid for a Coolidge was $74,000.

The Dog
There is one dog painting that stands apart from the rest because of its significance to the art world and artists everywhere. The Dog, a painting done in the home of Spanish artist Francisco Goya some time between 1819 and 1823, is one of the famous "Black Paintings" he left behind at Quinta del Sordo. The dog itself in the picture is only a small head peaking out over a dark mass that slopes upward and framed against a dirty ochre sky that highlights its features. The image was originally painted with oils onto the wall of the villa, but was transferred to canvas after Goya's death. In the art world, it is said to be one of the first Symbolist paintings of the Western world, depicting a powerful image of man's struggle against seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Saved and The Distinguished Member of the Humane Society
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, best known for his lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square, London, created a dog painting called Saved in 1856 which depicts a Newfoundland dog saving a small child from drowning. Eighteen years previous to that he had used the same dog breed for his now famous The Distinguished Member of the Humane Society. Each of the dogs portrayed, which may actually be two images of the same animal, are of the black and white variety of Newfoundland not particularly common at the time. His obvious love for this particular breed made Landseer famous with dog kennels and shows around the world. The Landseer Newfoundland is named after him.

Saved Painting by Sir Edwin Landseer 1856
Blue Dogs and the Legend of Loup Garou
In 1992, George Rodrigue, a Cajun artist from New Iberia, Louisiana, painted a series of paintings called The Blue Dog Pictures which were made popular by an advertising campaign done by Absolute Vodka. The blue dog has popped up in numerous other venues since then, but it wasn't created for commercial purposes. Rodrigue based his paintings on the Cajun legend of Loup Garou, the werewolf that is said to haunt the swamplands surrounding Acadiana and New Orleans. Parents teach their children morality lessons using the character and the commercial use of the blue dog has softened its image, but both Cajun and ancient American Indians still declare there's a factual basis for the story. Is there a werewolf in the bayou?

Sun Dogs in the Skies Above Stockholm
Vädersolstavlan, translated as The Sun Dog Painting, was produced in 1535 at the behest of King Gustav Vasa of Sweden. Though not what you'd call a traditional dog painting, this timeless masterpiece is regarded as the first depiction of the atmospheric phenomenon known as sun dogs, a condition that was considered by the people of the time to be a sign from above. King Gustav conscripted the painting to prove that an occurrence of sun dogs on April 20 of that year was not a cherubic response to his switch from Catholicism to the Protestant faith, but the painting was so powerful it actually seemed to the superstitious people of the time that the event was a divine manifestation. The controversy and subsequent persecution of the artists, Chancellor Olaus Petri and clergyman Laurentius Andreae, made the painting a highly sought after piece of artwork. It is also the oldest depiction of Stockholm itself. The original has been lost, but a copy from the 1630s can still be seen at Storkyrkan Church in Stockholm.

A Dog Painting of Your Favorite Breed
The classics may not be the right choice for your home and that's okay. You can find paintings of your favorite dog breeds in many different forms at a number of easy to get to locations. Pet stores have them, as do gift shops and department stores. Adorn your walls with images of your favorites or classics produced centuries ago. Your final choice is entirely up to you and will be different from anyone else's. The only real common bond between dog owners is their love of the animal itself. Others will know looking at your walls and mantles that you share that love.

Author Resource
Copyright (c) 2010 Trey Markel
More information on dog paintings. There are all sorts of dog pictures that ABC offers.

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