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Indepth Arts News:

"Hounds in Leash: The Dog in 18th and 19th Century Sculpture"
2000-05-25 until 2000-08-27
Henry Moore Institute
Leeds, , UK United Kingdom

Hounds in Leash brings together a group of British and French sculptures dating from the 1750s to the 1880s which highlight the unique relationship between owners and their dogs. The works selected for this exhibition range from ‘useless’ pampered pets, to sporting dogs, to the mythical and ferocious guardian of the underworld, Cerberus. The artists who made them were particularly renowned for their ability to render the texture, character and spirit of the dogs in ways that are unique to sculpture.

This period is a particularly interesting one in the development of the dog as a domesticated pet - a time when dogs’ intelligence and obedience were increasingly acknowledged, and there was growing concern about ill treatment and cruelty. This regard reached a high point in the 19th Century. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1824 (becoming the RSPCA in 1840); an Act of Parliament banned dog fighting and bull baiting in 1835. The first organised dog show was held in the Town Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in June 1859 and the Kennel Club was established in 1873. Underlying this relationship, however, is Man’s attempt to control, through breeding and training, what was once a wild animal – keeping hounds literally and metaphorically in leash.

The sculptures in the exhibition are a direct result of this shift in attitudes and the growing affection for dogs. The wealthy of the period who could afford to breed or import dogs, also commissioned portraits of their dogs as rewards for their fidelity, courage, agility and the companionship they offered. The resulting sculptures are a celebration of Man’s high regard for dogs. Moreover they signify social and cultural changes and raise issues of national identity, class and gender. They also remind us that Mans attitude could be ambivalent and that the realities of dog ownership could be much harsher. With the recent Dangerous Dog Act, the on-going debate about hunting and changes to the quarantine laws, such issues are just as compelling today.

There will be an accompanying publication with essays by the exhibition curators Matthew Craske (Oxford Brookes University) and Stephen Feeke (Henry Moore Institute) and animal historians Steve Baker (University of Central Lancashire) and Jonathan Burt, which will examine representations of dogs and other domestic animals from the 1750s to the present day. In addition, in June there will be a series of talks on the representation of dogs in relation to individual and national identity; speakers include Dr Alan Marshall (Kings College London), Dr Alison Light (University College London) and Dr Geoff Gilbert (US University, Paris).

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