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The Faces of Love

Dogs are said to be our best friends, our closest allies. They symbolize loyalty, friendship, and security. Did you know many famous artists have painted their own dogs and those of friends? Pablo Picasso, the great Cubist, often painted images of his dachshund, Lump, whose name in German means “rascal.” Pop artist Andy Warhol’s dog Archie is probably second in the dachshund hall of art fame. Warhol, it is said, never went anywhere without his beloved dog. Artist Jamie Wyeth painted Warhol’s portrait with Archie. Edvard Munch, famous for his psychological painting, The Scream, had many dogs of all sizes and spent so much time with them he literally suffered separation anxiety when away from his dogs! The artist David Hockney painted dog portraits everywhere he could for three months straight. In 1995 a gigantic coffee table book was published with his many pet portrait paintings. The great illustrator Norman Rockwell was a master of painting canines into his compositions. My all-time favorite painting which includes a dog is The Arnolfini Wedding by Jan van Eyck. Created in 1434, the oil painting on oak panel is an incredible masterpiece. With complex iconography, orthogonal perspective, and the inclusion of the image of a mirror which expands picture space, the painting features a cute little dog in the foreground of the room, a griffin terrier. Remember, dogs symbolize loyalty and fidelity. For many centuries, the painting was thought to be an official record of either a betrothal or a wedding ceremony, although much controversy surrounds the event depicted in the painting today, as controversy seems to surround everything else today as well!

The American painter Edward Hopper once stated, “If I could say it in words, I wouldn't have to paint it.” That’s how I feel about the faces of the dogs I include in paintings! What words could possibly describe the hearts and souls of our beautiful canine friends? When gazing at our beloved pooches, we murmur things like, “Awww, look at that face! And those eyes!” I say those things when I gaze at my cuddly beagle, Thumper, and when I scroll through adoptable dogs available at Blue Chip Farm Animal Refuge! I melt at every cute dog expression, every set of pleading eyes, every look of puppy love!

There’s an old Japanese proverb about the three faces of humans. We each have our public face, the face we show to the world. We have a second face, shown only to our family and closest friends but which we might never reveal in public. Thirdly is our totally private face, the real person inside us that no one ever sees. That’s why I love dogs! They have many faces, but their faces are always uncontrived, honest, open, and true!

I love these three faces of Abby, a red and white border collie who lives in Chase with my friends Brian and Lori. There’s her smiling, “I love you so much, Mom and Dad” face, accented by a wreath of flowers. There’s her sleepy, “That was the best frisbee game ever! I'm just exhausted!” face of sweet repose. There’s her stern, “Have you noticed my food bowl is EMPTY?” face. As the mother of a beagle, I've observed that expression once or twice! After their beloved black and white border collie, Zoey, crossed the Rainbow Bridge several years ago, Brian and Lori knew they still had an abundance of love to share with another canine. That's how Abby arrived InSide the Back Mountain from her birthplace in Towanda. She now basks in the honor of being Princess Daughter! Abby, which means “cause of joy” or “father’s joy” in Hebrew, attends school every two weeks. Lori tells me Abby loves her teacher and is learning Treibball, an urban herding game. In the springtime, they hope to try some agility!

Animal emotions and expressions are fascinating. They never hide their feelings like we do. Hungry? Want attention? Frustrated? Sleepy? Count on our canines to let us know! One of my dogs years back, a small black and white spaniel mix named Winslow (for Homer, of course) adopted us when he was a stray. Before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Winnie managed to master the classic “eye roll” when he wasn’t getting his own way!

Do you have a dog? Have you ever tried to draw or paint your pet’s portrait? There are numerous tutorials on the internet about the subject and numerous books at your favorite library or bookstore. Even if our art is never hung in the Met, we will never be sorry we explored our pets’ eyes in hand-drawn or painted portraits!

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