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ARMOUR George Denholm (Lt.-Col.)“PORTRAIT OF AN IRISH SETTER”
A long list of popular phenomenona has contributed to the somewhat cheap connotation of dogs in pictures, drawings or paintings, which is inevitable when a medium becomes widely spread and dirt cheap. Luckily, the artistic gift of a good painter is still as applaudable and inaccessible as it was back in the day. What a joy it is then to marvel at the work of a an extremely gifted painter, back when people did not take twenty-seven Instagram pictures of meaningless lives. If the originator had his dog painted, in that societal climate, we can be sure it must have been a pretty extraordinary dog. Only one generation ago, the veterinarian came to the farm only to take care of herd animals. While helping to deliver a calf, the farmer might have asked: say, my dog has been refusing to eat for a week now, what should I do? “Oh, give him some milk, if in a weeks’ time there is no improvement, hit him on the head with a shovel.” So at first glance, one might be inclined to consider this painting of an Irish Setter as much as a status symbol and as it is the portrait of a loved one. Hunting was considered a noble pass-time and Setters still are truly amazing hunting dogs. Extremely intelligent, enthusiastic and with a fantastic smell for a fat pheasant. Even so, a big smelly dog in the living room? It is rather hard to phantom. The carefully placed whip adds to the barrel of contradiction. All the more praise to the dog, because it had to learn without the proper, current training techniques. George Denholm Armour (1864–1949) was of Scottish decent. After his studies, he spent a brief period in Tangiers to try his hand at horse-dealing. When that proved fruitless, he returned to the British Isle. Although he did graduated from art school, amongst many other studies, painting was not his only concern in life. One might, a bit boldly, claim that dogs and horses were his priority and that is why he also painted them. Not the other way around. That surely must have trained his eye, a quality that is reflected in his work. The proof of the pudding? Work by his hand was posthumously sold at Christies.
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