SSZ Bookshelf: The Book of the Dog

Being a dog obsessed lunatic as well as a visual artist, I felt I was the most qualified person in the SSZ team to sink my canines into this beautifully assembled, coffee table sized book which explores how artists have captured man’s best friend throughout history. Naturally when it arrived on my desk my first instinct was to open it up and give it a doglike sniff, so I did just that and boy does it smell great. In fact, the first thing you’ll notice with The Book of the Dog is it’s fantastic smelling thick paper stock and waffle texture front cover. Its textured pages are a pleasure for the fingertips as you flip through, doing justice to the works printed thereon. The materials compliment the book’s elegant editorial design, the tone of which is set by the cover piece: a majestically poised whippet with a watchful gaze, rendered in watercolour by Sarah Maycock.

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Who would want to read it?

Dog owners and appreciators who also have a keen interest in art. Or maybe art appreciators who have a keen interest in dogs? Either way if you enjoy both dogs and art in any capacity you’re gonna be into this book. Interestingly, actual dogs aren’t that interested in the book, as I discovered when placed it down in front of my border collie who declined to read even one page. So just humans I guess. Well, except maybe cat people.

What’s the point?

The book’s aim is to observe the idea of the dog as a subject and muse across different periods in art history. The reader is often treated to a brief insight into the artist’s life and relationship to dogs, or sometimes into the lives of their subjects, be they two or four legged. We’re also usually offered a snapshot of the artist’s work in relation to the movements of that period for context, which is handy if your art history is a little rusty. Oh and of course, let’s not forget that The Book of the Dog is packed with over 100 beautiful images of dogs in their painterly glory. Are you wagging your tail yet?

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Did it teach me anything?

As someone who hasn’t ever really delved into dogs in art further back than modern day illustration, it was nice to brush up on my art history in a casual way featuring artworks from the eighteenth century all the way up to the present. There are also many little nuggets of knowledge to pick up throughout the book on topics such as breed specifics and social status in history.

Did it miss anything out?

It would have been intriguing to see some even older examples of dogs in art and maybe the inclusion of a few other mediums outside of painting and illustration. However, this book should be taken on its own terms as a fun, quirky addition to the dog lover’s bookshelf and is also a good source of inspiration for your own canine artwork should you feel the urge to pick up a pencil after you finish reading. Good luck trying to get your dog to stay still though.

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You can fetch a copy of The Book of the Dog by clicking here: http://www.laurenceking.com/en/the-book-of-the-dog-dogs-in-art/

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