"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” Mark Twain (c.1910)
Dogs have held a special place in the lives of humankind for centuries. How long has Fido been man’s best friend? Surely before Mark Twain’s time (quoted above)! The art historical record is no exception and rich with canine imagery, as evidenced in the 2008 publication The Dog: 5,000 Years of the Dog in Art by Tamsin Pickeral available to all dog lovers at the Frick Art Reference Library. According to the detailed timeline located in the back of the book, the earliest evidence of the domestic dog was found in Germany and dates from 14,000 years ago. Since then, they have been depicted in the fine and decorative arts in a variety of ways. The author provides readers with splendidly illustrated, thematic chapters such as “The Romantic Dog” and “The Mythical Dog” to begin or further their knowledge of this animal in art.
Pickeral’s book would most likely have been a favorite of the founder of the Frick Art Reference Library, Helen Clay Frick, as she owned and loved many dogs. Her fondness for two pups in particular is conveyed through the décor of the Library’s reading room. High above the reference desk, she immortalized in frescoed portraits Westmoreland Bobbie (on the left), a Field Spaniel, and Patrick (on the right), an Irish Terrier, who were affectionately known as Bobbie and Paddie. Painted by Angelo Magnanti, the companions are depicted in profile, facing each other in painted roundels as they forever keep watch over the researchers below. Further visual evidence of Miss Frick’s affection for the dogs may be found in the text written above their portraits: Lealtà, loyalty, above Bobbie, and Fedeltà, fidelity, above Paddie.
The Helen Clay Frick Papers from the Archives of The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library contain many references to these beloved pets. The papers include recommendations for canine recipes, notes concerning custom-fitted sheepskin coats ordered from Macy’s department store, and lifetime memberships to the Tail-Wagger’s Club of New York City. Many a dog lover may identify with Miss Frick’s adoration of her four-legged friends and attest to the lengths people will go to ensure the comfort of their favorite companions.
Bobbie’s Tail-Waggers' Club lifetime membership certificate, signed by Daisy Miller, secretary to the Tail-Wagger-in-Chief. Courtesy of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.
We invite you to visit the Frick Art Reference Library to meet Bobbie and Paddie, the Library’s resident security guards, and to flip through Pickeral’s book, along with many more titles related to the dog in art. Along the way, we hope you catch a glimpse of one of New York City’s iconic dog walkers with their furry charges in tow!
Elizabeth Lane, Assistant Reference Librarian, Frick Art Reference Library