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Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney, Wallace Collection REVIEW

Do you need to be a dog lover to go to this show? Not necessarily but it certainly helps, given that there is scarcely a human to be seen in a collection where Hairy Maclary would be fully at home.

A pair of marble greyhounds, the Tonsley Greyhounds, date from the first or second century AD and are beautiful and strikingly modern. A small da Vinci drawing of paws has the mark of the master. Stubbs' dogs stand majestic, fierce, imposing, a symbol of status in the world. Thus begins an exhibition of portraits in which the sitters are all canine.

There is a taxidermy Pekinese, fashionable after the storming of the Summer Palace in China in 1860 and a rather creepy dog in a box. There is a whole room of royal dogs, from various King Charles spaniels to some charming watercolours by Queen Victoria, who, on the evidence of what is on show here was rather better than her husband. If you want to see corgis, they are in a special photographic display upstairs.

A large chunk of the exhibition is given over to Queen Victoria's favourite, Edwin Landseer, he of the famous stag, The Monarch of the Glen. His Victorian 'chocolate box' paintings are unfashionable but wow, he was good at animals. In our experience, kids love a picture with a story and Landseer gives a master class: dressed up dogs, a dog mourning its owner, a cheeky small dog.

In the last room, we are brought up to date, via a beautiful Freud whippet (and her grave) into the brilliant colours of Hockney and his daschunds. There is even a video of the artist at work, with some very well-behaved canine models.

It's fun and well worth seeing BUT we wish it could have been free for kids. You are fine if you have U12s but ages 12–17 are £5 a ticket.

Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney is at the Wallace Collection to 15 Oct. Tickets: £14–£16 adults, £5–£7 ages 12–17, under 12s free.


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