No one can resist the charm of Dog. Not you, not me, not even brilliant visionaries like Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo. In fact, many of the world’s most famous artists couldn’t help but be inspired by their own pups, who sniffed their way into many of their iconic pieces. We rounded up our favorite dog-loving artists to showcase their best pup-inspired work. Each piece is a tribute to the artist’s love for their pup — and the irresistible love that we all have for our four-legged friends.
1. David Hockney’s Dachshunds
Since 1995, contemporary artist David Hockney has painted hundreds of portraits of his Dachshunds Stanley and Boodgie as they nap and play. “I make no apologies for the apparent subject matter…these two dear little creatures are my friends,” Hockney wrote.
Paintings and drawings of Stanley and Boodgie were published in a book in 1998 called David Hockney’s Dog Days.
2. Jeff Koons’ Puppy
Jeff Koons is best known for his large-scale reproductions of everyday objects, but in 1992 he created a 43 foot tall sculpture of a West Highland Terrier made with stainless steel, soil, geotextile fabric, an internal irrigation system, and live flowering plants.
While it was recreated several times, Puppy has found a permanent home sitting outside of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
3. Pompeii’s Beware of the Dog Mosaic
This mosaic was discovered in the House of the Tragic Poet in the Ancient Roman town of Pompeii. The words inscribed at the bottom of the mosaic, “Cave Canem,” literally translate to “beware of the dog.”
Researchers believe this symbol was intended to bring attention to the presence of household dogs rather than signal danger.
4. Norman Rockwell’s Pride of Parenthood, and others
Norman Rockwell often included dogs in his iconic scenes of American family life. His own dog, a mutt named Pitter, sometimes joined him in his studio while he painted. Rockwell recommended that artists paint four-legged creatures “just as carefully and understandingly as you paint the people.”
5. Andy Warhol’s Dog (Dachshund)
After Andy Warhol adopted his Dachshund, Archie, in 1973, they became inseparable. Andy took Archie everywhere — art openings, his studio, and even restaurants where Archie would sit on his lap beneath a napkin (to avoid restaurant inspectors, and probably also to sneak some food).
Andy was so attached to Archie that he refused to travel to London without him. Archie became something of an alter ego for Andy during interviews, and Andy would deflect questions that he didn’t want to answer to his doting Dachshund.
6. Franz Marc’s Dog Lying in the Snow
Voted the Städel Museum’s most popular painting in 2008, this piece depicts Marc’s own dog, Ruthie. Around 1911, when this work was completed, Marc began to paint animals exclusively because he believed they were the only innocent creatures in a corrupted world.
7. Charles Schulz and Snoopy
Charles Schulz’s childhood dog, Spike — who would later serve as the inspiration for Snoopy — had a habit of eating unusual things.
When Schulz was 15, he drew a picture of Spike and sent it to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, describing how Spike had ingested pins, tacks, and razor blades whole but yet seemed to be in perfect health. While Spike was a pointer (not a beagle like Snoopy), his white coat and black ears are reminiscent of the much-loved character.
8. Keith Haring’s Dancing Dogs
In the 1980s, Keith Haring gained fame by posting his art in public spaces, including subways in New York City. Dancing dogs appear repeatedly in his work, and have become one of his most recognized trademarks.
Haring’s dogs are notably human-like as they dance on two legs, but, interestingly, when they appear alongside human forms, they are portrayed as significantly larger.
9. Picasso and Lump
Picasso’s relationship with his Dachshund named Lump was described as a “love affair” by his photographer friend, David Duncan. Originally Duncan’s dog, Lump accompanied Picasso’s house on April 19th, 1957 — and stayed for 6 years.
Picasso had many dogs, but Lump was the only one he would hold and feed from his hand. The artist once described Lump as indefinable: “Lump, he’s not a dog, he’s not a little man, he’s somebody else.” The pup died just ten days before Picasso, on March 29th, 1973.
10. Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s A Friend in Need
This iconic painting is one of a series of 16 oil paintings. They were commissioned in 1903 by Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars. Coolidge’s paintings are often simply called “Dogs Playing Poker,” which one New York Times writer compared to calling a Van Gogh portrait “Man with a Missing Ear”. Despite his obscurity, Coolidge was quite creative.
He is credited with inventing comic foregrounds that people could stand in front of to take photos, for example, “Fat Man in a Bathing Suit.” Aside from painting dogs playing cards, Coolidge also painted them doing other activities like playing baseball and arguing in court.
11. Lucian Freud’s Whippets
Contemporary painter Lucian Freud often used dogs in his portraits, painting them lying alongside his human subjects. Freud’s own Whippets, Pluto and Pluto’s great, great-niece, Eli, even appear as the main subjects of some paintings.
The artist explained his love of working with dogs like this: “I am impressed by their lack of arrogance, their ready eagerness, their animal pragmatism.” He strove to have his
human subjects look as relaxed and natural as his animal ones.
12. Edvard Munch’s Head of a Dog
Famous for his intense paintings depicting interior psychological states, including his most well-known work, The Scream, Edvard Munch himself struggled with anxiety and depression. Munch’s sister and mother died when he was a boy and in 1908 Munch suffered a severe mental breakdown. In his later years Edvard Munch withdrew from society, living alone without a servant or a housekeeper.
Only his several dogs kept him company while he devoted his time to painting. Munch was even known to take his dogs to the movies with him as his trusted critics. If his dog barked he left the show.
13. Frida Kahlo’s Itzcuintli Dog With Me
Frida Kahlo loved animals and had many pets. She considered them a replacement for the children she was not able to have after a serious bus accident crushed her spine and lower body. Out of her 143 paintings, 55 of them are self-portraits portraying physical and psychological wounds and featuring her beloved animals.
Among her pets she kept hairless Mexican Itzcuintli dogs, her favorite named Mr. Xoloti, one of which she features in this work. Itzcuintli dogs are very rare and were highly prized by the Aztecs, which may explain their appeal to Kahlo, who was very proud of her MesoAmerican heritage.
14. Michael Sowa’s Their Master’s Voice
Contemporary artist and illustrator Michael Sowa features animals in his works constantly. The German artist is best known for his whimsical surreal paintings in which animals are the main subjects, replacing or competing with human forms.
His animals can be found conducting human business such as ice skating or surfing the internet as in his work Laptop Sheep.
15. William Wegman’s Weimaraners
William Wegman fell in love with his first pup Man Ray early in his career and the two began a collaboration that lasted throughout Man Ray’s life and gained Wegman notoriety as a photographer. The dog was a central figure in Wegman’s photographs, known for his deadpan stare.
When Man Ray passed away in 1981 it took Wegman five years to feel ready to bring a new Weimaraner into his life. This pup was Fay Ray. Later, Fay’s puppies Battina, Crooky, Chundo, Battina’s son Chip, Chip’s son Bobbin, and Bobbin’s daughter Penny all joined Wegman’s pack and photographs. Wegman even wrote a series of children’s books inspired by his dogs.
Makes you want to grab a paintbrush and your pup, no? Even if you’re not a world-class master, your dog will appreciate it!
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