Dogs of all shapes and sizes, from royal favourites and distinguished pedigrees to determined mongrels and intelligent working dogs, are celebrated in Chatsworth’s new exhibition for 2019 (23rd March – 6th October 2019).
Inspired by the Duchess of Devonshire’s love for her four-legged friends, ‘The Dog: A Celebration at Chatsworth’ explores stories of bravery and mischief, of working dogs and treasured companions through a myriad of paintings and objects from letters, snuff boxes, jewellery, sculpture and ceramics to embroideries, drawings and painted ceilings.
Star works from Constable, Stubbs, Gainsborough and Landseer sit alongside contemporary pieces by Lucian Freud, Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley and Elisabeth Frink to complete a wonderful celebration of dogs in art.
In the garden, the Duke and Duchess have commissioned the artist Ben Long to create an eight-metre high scaffolding sculpture of a dog. Using the most ubiquitous of materials, this site-specific piece has a monumental scale and grace not normally associated with its construction material, and is a vivid addition to the landscape.
The exhibition explores more than 400 years of the enduring bond between man and his faithful friend through generations of the Cavendish family celebrating the lives of dogs intertwined with the work of a country estate.
The family’s close association with their dogs is shown right back to the time of the 1st Duke as a child with his dog, through a poem written by Duchess Georgiana in the 18th century, a recipe for dealing with a bite from a mad dog and letters between the 9th Duke and Duchess detailing the antics of their naughty puppy Punch. The 6th Duke’s many dogs, which he celebrated in commissioned portraits, are brought together again as well as candid family photographs of Duchess Deborah and other family members with their dogs.
The Duchess of Devonshire, who has played a leading role in creating the exhibition, has lent many personal pieces which celebrate her constant companions and many of the working dogs she has bred and trained.
“I have lived with and loved dogs for as long as I can remember. They are an integral part of my life and every day I see the importance of dogs reflected in the Collection at Chatsworth. When I look out into the park or walk my own dogs Max and Treacle, I am always conscious of the pleasure that so many people get from walking their dogs. I hope this exhibition gives people an opportunity to share in our love of dogs and add their own stories to this enduring relationship.”
The exhibition looks at dogs from myths and legends, in cartoons and as companions as well as the way dogs have been venerated with extravagant pieces including silver dog collars; Fabergé pieces made from precious stones including a border terrier with rose diamond eyes and even four-poster dog beds upholstered in silk velvet and chintz.
Objects from the Devonshire Collection and the family’s private collection – including pieces shown publicly for the first time – are displayed alongside loans from public and private collections. Significant lenders include the Kennel Club, Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Science and Media Museum.
Edwin Landseer’s ‘Trial by Jury’, one of the most celebrated dog paintings of the 19th century, which uses the individual characters of the breeds of dogs to satirise the legal profession, is just one of the highlights.
For the Duchess, one of the most poignant pieces on display is a Red Cross collar, worn by a dog trained to locate dead and wounded soldiers during the First World War. Usually under the cover of night such dogs searched no man’s land between opposing trenches. The dogs were able to tell the difference between a deceased soldier and one that was unconscious. Some dogs were equipped with bottles of brandy and rope so stretcher bearers and rescue parties, including medics, could find the injured man.
Chatsworth is proud to be working with the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People during 2019 to help raise awareness of its valuable work training assistance dogs. The exhibition is being supported by Sotheby’s, the headline sponsor, and C.W. Sellors and Skinner’s, the major sponsors.
Outside the house, the #Chatswoof season will also feature lots of opportunities to get involved, from talks and tours to dog walks and dog agility.
For more information including opening hours and ticket prices, visit chatsworth.org/thedog
Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP