Published: February 4, 2003
Wesleyan Exhibits Images from Dürer to Wegman
MIDDLETOWN, CONN. – “: Images from Dürer to Wegman,” on exhibit at the Davison Art Center through March 7, presents a history of dogs in art spanning five centuries from the Renaissance to the present.
Themes represented include dogs as hunters and domestic companions, dogs enacting human emotions and moral characteristics and dogs as endless sources of humor and delight. Just as human figures in art over the ages change in style and meaning, so too do their canine counterparts.
Mythological subjects in the exhibition incorporate fashionable dogs such as Albrecht Dürer’s “St Eustace,” circa 1500-01, but perhaps the most posh is the spaniel in James Watson’s 1768 “Portrait of a Dog Belonging to Lord Edward Mentinck.”
During the Nineteenth Century there appear many sentimentalized images of canines enacting human emotions and morals. These included L.-N. Lepic’s “For the Poor,” an etching of a dog begging for money.
A supporter of bills against cruelty to animals, Queen Victoria might have taken that print to heart. “No civilization,” she stated, “is complete when it does not include the dumb and defenseless of God’s creatures within the sphere of charity and mercy.” These Twentieth Century images refer back to a long tradition in which dogs appear to speak with human voices.
The exhibition also includes prints that use dogs as surrogates or emblems of the human condition. William Wegman’s dogs defy traditional categories of canine representation. For instance, his “Bat Bite” might have been conceived as a scene based on Nineteenth Century female odalisque compositions. But the semirecumbent Weimaraner (Battina) is teething, and Wegman photographed her just as she turned her head around to chew on the chair back.
In the exhibit, “John Heartfield: Fighting the Dogs of War,” also on view through March 7, the German artist John Heartfield (Berlin 1891-1968) is featured. Heartfield was a founding member of the Berlin Dada group and shared a studio with painter and illustrator George Grosz, whom he met in Berlin in 1915. A member of the Communist Party, Heartfield was active designing books and posters as well as doing newspaper and magazine work for the party in the 1920s, innovatively combining photography and typography in his work.
Many of Heartfield’s photomontages were first published in the 1920s and 1930s in the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Workers’ Illustrated Paper) and the Volks-Illustrierte (People’s Illustrated). On view in this exhibition are 18 collotype reproductions of Heartfield’s photomontages.
The Davison Art Center is at 301 High Street. For information, 860-685-2500 or www.Wesleyan.edu/dac.
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