The William Secord Gallery
"The Dog in Art"
You might wonder how I have come to report on all things dogs. The first subject was "Canine Styles" (and owners Mark Drendel and Chad Conway).The fabulous painting hanging in their Lexington Avenue Boutique, led me to the artist, Christine Merrill. I invited Ms. Merrill in a discussion on dog portraiture and the world of capturing beloved canines. Her work is on view exclusively at The William Secord Gallery in New York City, which gave me the chance to meet with the Founder and President of the gallery, William Secord.
The William Secord Gallery specializes in fine nineteenth and twentieth century animal paintings, with dog paintings a specialty. It is the only gallery in North America devoted exclusively to paintings of dogs. I met with William Secord at his Chelsea gallery. He is a pleasant, kind gentleman - with an impressive art background - who on the day, was dressed in an impeccable suit and tie, ready for business or to welcome visitors. When asked how he finds these paintings, he said "I buy from reputable sources or from estates, who give on consignement". In 2008, with the recession, there seemed to be a demand for art, especially in what he calls "the animal market". "Horse paintings were previously the biggest sellers but dogs became more and more popular", he told me. The contempory market is different from the antique market. There are three kinds of dog paintings : Sporting breeds: which sell to those living in country settings or to the Ralph Lauren set. Purebreds: paintings which reflect the pride of ownership, appealing to Kennel Club enthusiasts or to other official canine associations and also to collectors. Certain rare breeds are much in demand, which make these paintings the most popular. The last category is Pets: this category came about during the Industrial Revolution and the economic success of some made it possible to afford such paintings. Influenced by Queen Victoria, dogs were portrayed in domestic settings, a sign of comfort and wealth. At present, there is still a fair number of clients who will choose to commission a portrait of their favorite pets and some will even offer gift certificates for commissioned work to their dog owner friends. When asked which breeds are the most popular: "Pointers and Setters are the number one seller", he answered without hesitation. "There is an emotional tie between hunters and dogs", he added. William stressed that just selling paintings is not his ultimate goal. His relationship with his clients brings him the biggest satisfaction. "I need to establish trust with all my clients", he confided. But as with any business, there are quirks that are fascinating. Why people love to collect is still a mystery to him. There are clients who buy in series: by painters or breeds, and on a regular basis. For whatever reason, they just cannot get enough!
William Secord grew up on a farm in Eastern Canada. His family had Border Collies, so dogs were part of his childhood. He later went on to study art and received degrees in Art History and Arts Administration (B.A. with Honors in Art History, Carleton University; M.A. Arts Administration, New York University). He began his career working at the Museum of American Folk Art. In 1981 he became the first director of The Dog Museum of America in New York City, where he mounted an extensive series of thematic exhibitions. When the Museum moved to its headquarters in St. Louis in 1986, he came to realize his career could be made with his own art business. In 1990 he opened a commercial gallery in the art gallery district of Manhattan's Upper East Side. After many years at that location, they moved downtown to its present location at 29 West 15th Street.
He is also author of many articles on the subject of the dog in art. He wrote "Dog Painting, 1840-1940, A Social History of the Dog in Art", published in August 1992 by the Antique Collectors' Club in England. The first printing sold out in eight weeks. The book has subsequently been reprinted and is now in its sixth edition. He is also the author of "Dog Painting, The European Breeds", his second book for The Antique Collectors' Club, published in 2000. His third book on nineteenth century dog painting "A Breed Apart, The Art Collections of The American Kennel Club and The American Kennel Club Museum of The Dog". More recently, he co-authored "Best in Show, The Dog in Art from the Renaissance to the Present", a catalogue published by Yale University Press.
In addition, William curated a major exhibition of dog paintings for Brain Trust, Inc., with loans from many private collections as well as The Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Portrait Gallery in London. He is called upon to occasionally appraise animal paintings, as he is an acknowledged expert in the field. He has lectured extensively on the subject of dog painting and is active in many dog and animal-related charities, having been appointed to the Board of Directors of The ASPCA in 1997, where he is a former board member. He is a member of The Kennel Club, London, The Morris and Essex Kennel Club in New Jersey, and a Life Member of The British Sporting Art Trust.
Artist: Arthur Wardle (English, 1864 -1949) Title: "A Sporting Afternoon"
Included in "The Dog in Art" show, are paintings by George Armfield (English, 1808-1893), Alexandre Clarys (Belgian, 1857-1920), Horatio Henry Couldery (English, 1832-1918), Maud Earl (English, 1864-1943), George Earl (English, 1824-1908), Frances Mabel Hollams (English, 1877-1963), Florence Jay (English, fl. 1905-1920), Edwin Megargee (American, 1883-1958) and Arthur Wardle (English, 1864-1949).
I hope you will visit the gallery and meet William Secord and the charming Galina Zhitomirsky, Gallery Director.
The gallery is open by appointment: 212.249.0075
29 West 15th Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10011