Published 1st July 2014
Our Operations Director, Rachel Littlewood, has just acquired a fluffy new kitten and she is completely smitten by the said kitten: screensaver, kitten T-shirt, kitten coffee mug, kitten sun visor for car 'Rach... loves... Kitty'. Slight exaggeration, but you get the idea!
I know this because we were chatting about our favourite things and I have a theory that it is good for the soul to know your favourites. Often when you ask someone 'what is your favourite ... colour, fruit, animal?' ... they don't know and have to think about it. Not me, I have spent a long time working it out, and it makes me happy.
And Rachel knows hers too. When the subject of animals came up, quick as a flash out came her mobile with a photograph of the said kitten: big eyes, soft fluffy ears, gossamer fur, pink nose, looking cute on the shiny screen. I'm not a big cat person myself, but we do have a family dog - and it is quite clear that, mostly, we all do like pets.
With the exception of equestrian painting, George Stubbs or Alfred Munnings for example, animal painting is not regarded as one of the elite genre. Animals do appear, of course, in religious and historical paintings, but animals depicted as pets in portrait form is much less serious, possibly even a bit kitsch.
The heyday of kitsch animal painting was during the late Victorian and Edwardian period when you could have your pet painted as a civilised sign of your love for A four legged friend.
We recently sold a pair of paintings of six very camp kittens by Frederick French (1883-1916) (FS22/396) for £480 and equally camp and decorative was a pair of Continental paintings of Parakeets and Pug Dogs (FS22/393), which made £1,500.
In the July 2014 sale, the emphasis is more on dog paintings and this includes a wonderful St Bernard called Luna (FS23/284). Luna is depicted in a kennel with the oak and gilt frame of the painting constructed to form a kennel doorway. We know little about the unknown Victorian artist, but it's a mark of how treasured Luna was that the frame is mounted with A plaque inscribed 'Luna (1873-1881) by Thor out of Jura'.
In the same July sale is another oil painting of dogs titled Companions (FS22/285). This depicts a West Highland terrier and a Dandie Dinmont terrier who are clearly best friends. The painting is by Robert Morley and is estimated at £1,200-£1,800.
So, I do like dogs, but my favourite animal – do you know yours? – is a Zebra, and for the record - favourite colour: Yellow, favourite fruit: Raspberry, favourite vegetable: Pea – maybe I need to get out more!