You Too Can Own a Portrait of a Dog Dressed as a Person

Dog art auctions put the spotlight on man’s best friend

"Corrie," Frances Mabel Hollams. Doyle New York
"Portraits of the Prize Winners of a Crystal Palace Dog Show," collection by various artists. Doyle New York
"Best Friends," Charles Towne, 1832. Doyle New York
"Spaniel and Partridge," Charles Verlat. Doyle New York
"A Strong Scent," Thomas Blinks, 1899. Doyle New York
"Chevalier de Saint-Denis," Thierry Poncelet. Doyle New York

Whether they’re buying in on a poker game or simply posing for a portrait, dogs have long been a favorite subject for artists from Picasso to Banksy. Now, Doyle New York is hosting an auction of fine art pieces featuring dogs in all their goofiness and glory.

The sale, which is straightforwardly named “Dogs in Art,” is included as part of its upcoming auction of Belle Époque artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries. The auction features sculptures, paintings, and decorative artworks featuring man’s best friend in all sorts of settings, from sport dogs hunting prey in woodlands and fields by artists like Charles Verlat and Thomas Blinks to, oddly, portraits of well-to-do humans with canine heads by painter Thierry Poncelet, Alyssa Buffenstein writes for artnet News.

"He began his career as a restorer, and one day he was bored in the studio and decided he wanted to spruce up some Old Master paintings," Ariel Gold, a specialist in Doyle's paintings department, tells James Tarmy for Bloomberg. "So he painted the face of a dog on the head of an Old Master's figure, and then it became a new career for him."

Poncelet may have painted his portraits with his tongue placed firmly in cheek, but animal portraiture is a long-standing tradition in the fine art world, especially when it comes to dogs and horses. Dog paintings in particular became popular among patrons of the arts and collectors in 19th century England thanks to a certain queen’s tastes, Alanna Martinez reports for the Observer.

“Queen Victoria was a dog lover, so [the artwork] followed her lead,” Alan Fausel, director of fine art at Bonhams tells Martinez. Bonhams is holding its own annual dog-themed art auction later this month, coinciding with the 140th Westminster Dog Show.

Dog paintings may be an artistic niche, but it’s a popular one. According to Fausel, the lion’s share of people who buy artworks in this genre are from the United States and is extremely popular with executives and celebrities as well as dedicated fine art collectors.

“It’s a sale with a lot of internet presence because of the wide flung nature of it,” Fausel tells Martinez. “It appeals not just people in the art world.”

The price tags on paintings in both auctions vary widely, with some pieces costing about as much as it would to buy and care for a real dog. Just as dog owners have their preferences for breeds and personalities, it turns out that dog painting owners do, as well.

As Gold tells Tarmy, "We've seen that pugs tend to do quite well," he says. "German shepherds are a little more challenging to sell."