We’ve all read the romantic stories of artists and their muses. The muse provided the artists with companionship and sometimes appeared in their work; the artists often created work that either directly or indirectly included their muse. To prepare for this article, I got lost in the research. I came across a story about two socialite sisters named Claribel and Etta Cone who provided motivation and inspiration for Henry Matisse; another about how a beautiful young woman named Joanna Hiffernan inspired some of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s most important works, and another on how Dora Maar, a French poet, painter and photographer, was the muse for several of Pablo Picasso’s sad portraits. As was his custom, another woman named Marie-Thérèse Walter became the inspiration for many of Picasso’s later portraits.
Andrew Wyeth was inspired by a woman named Helga Testorf, who was his sister’s housekeeper; Edouard Manet saw Victorine Meurent running through the streets and was instantly intrigued. She became such an important catalyst for him that she inadvertently inspired him to change his artistic style. There is the beautiful but tragic story of Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel and the equally sad story of Edie Sedgwick, who became one of Andy Warhol’s primary muses.
But it’s not just other humans that provide inspiration and companionship to artists. Some very special canines played the role of muse for many famous artists of the past, and wound up making an appearance in their paintings and photographs.
By the time America declared war against Germany in 1917 and joined allied forces in France, World War One was in its fourth year. The first real test in battle for the United States Marine Corps was the 1918 battle at Belleau Wood. The Germans had advanced to within 50 miles of Paris. Belleau Wood was part of an Allied campaign to push back against the German Spring Offensive to halt their advance towards Paris. The battle raged on for three weeks before the Marines were finally victorious. General Pershing said it was the most important battle fought by American forces since the Civil War. It was during the battle of Belleau Wood where the fighting spirit of the Marines and soon- to-be mascot, the English Bulldog, became synonymous.
According to stories, the Marines fought with such tenacity and valor that the Germans nicknamed the Americans Teufelhunden or “Devil Dogs.” In Bavarian folklore, devil dogs were wild mountain dogs. The battle at Belleau Wood was real, but the German nickname was based on mythology. However, it wasn’t long before a recruiting poster painted by Charles Falls appeared showing a dachshund wearing a spiked helmet and Iron Cross running from an English Bulldog wearing a helmet with the globe and anchor insignia on it. Written on the poster was “Teufelhunden – Devil Dog Recruiting Station.” The poster was embraced by the Marine Corps and the public.
The first unofficial mascot, King Bulwark, was an English Bulldog pup sired by Rob Roy, a well known and famous English Bulldog. Born May 22, 1922, the pup’s royal registered name was quickly changed to Jiggs. Private Jiggs was enlisted into the United States Marine Corps at a formal ceremony on October 14, 1922 by Brigadier General Smedley Butler.
Dogs have become famous symbols for many different brands. Some are so connected to the brand that their image instantly brings to mind the product or business it represents. With clever marketing and advertising, these dogs have made a huge impression on their viewing audiences, sometimes even taking on an almost cult-like following that shadows the original product they represent.
RCA Victor: Nipper
One of the classic icons of advertising, Nipper was shown sitting next to a large old-fashioned cylinder phonograph by Edison Bell. Nipper was first seen in a painting done by Francis James Barraud, the brother of Nipper’s original owner. Named for his habit of trying to nip visitors in the legs, the white Terrier with dark ears was born in 1894 and only lived for a year. His painting was done three years after his death.
Nipper became registered as the image of RCA for use in the United States in 1900. He represented RCA Victor Talking Machine Company, HMV, JVC, His Master’s Voice, and then RCA Victor. In later advertisements starting in 1991, a puppy companion named Chipper was added to some of the pictures.
I take a ridiculous number of pet photographs. Every time one of our pets strikes a new pose or just looks extra adorable, I snap a picture. Most of my animal-loving friends do the same thing, and have a ton of pet photos on their camera phone. When I look at the photos of my pets or photos other people have taken of their pets, it’s a treat to see the strong connection between photographer and pet. Without trying to sound too cheesy, it’s like I see the animal through a lens of love.
That’s probably the first thing that grabbed me when I stumbled upon artist John Dolan’s sketches of George the Dog. Long before I learned about their incredible life together, I responded to the connection that was so evident in the simple black and white portraits John drew of his beloved George. And, like me, it seems that John picks up pen and paper as often as I pick up my camera; he’s created hundreds of pen and ink drawings of George the Dog in a variety of positions and circumstances. It’s heartwarming.
To discover Dolan’s art is one thing, but when you learn more about the back story, it’s quite another. The first time his art and story came to my attention was via an article in the UK publication, the Hackney Citizen. Apparently this exceptionally talented guy has a rocky past that includes multiple jail stays. He eventually ended up living on the streets of London before he was “discovered,” and he attributes all of his success to George the Dog.
Dogs have wended their way into the creative world of television and print cartoons over the decades. Their anthropomorphized personalities give them a connection with the human viewers while still maintaining their canine features. Although there are many, these chosen five have stood the test of time over cartoon history and become beloved dog icons. Their simple humor appeals to children and adults alike.
Scooby-Doo was originally created for Hanna-Barbera productions for a show called Scooby-Doo, Where Are you! in 1969. The television show, written by Ken Spears and Joe Ruby, ran on CBS from 1969 until 1976. It went to ABC from there and ran from 1976 until 1986. It even had a spinoff show that ran for three years called A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. The big, clumsy, lovable cartoon dog managed to stick around through various shows and made his way into movie form in Scooby-Doo in 2002 and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed in 2004.
Cartoons take a while to become the characters we grow to know and love. Starting with a concept, they go through changes until the show goes live for the first time. After an uproar from parent watch groups concerned with the violence of Saturday morning cartoons, the challenge was put out to create cartoons that were child friendly. One of the creations was Scooby-Doo, who was originally going to be a sheepdog named Too Much. The teenaged human characters were based on characters in the television comedy show, The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis. Scooby-Doo’s name was inspired by a line in the Frank Sinatra song, Strangers in the Night.
In the early 1900s, the notion of flying an airplane over the North Pole was considered dangerous and an almost impossible task. Umberto Nobile’s dream was to fly a dirigible over the top of the world, and he wasn’t deterred by skeptics who scoffed at his insane idea. Nobile was a determined adventurer and with his loyal dog Titina by his side, he made a historic flight over the Arctic in an airship. This earned them recognition as the first man and dog to fly over the North Pole.
Titina was a stray Fox Terrier wandering the streets of Rome when she found Nobile one day in 1925. The two month old pup was lost, starving, and desperate for help. She approached him, stood up on her hind legs and pawed the air with her front feet. He bent down and petted her on the head. Unable to leave her behind, Nobile scooped her up and carried her home. From that moment on, Titina followed Nobile wherever he went.
She didn’t share her owner’s love of flying, but her desire to be with him was stronger than her fear. Nobile had intended to leave Titina at home during his 1926 flight over the Arctic, but the little dog wasn’t about to be left behind. As his airship the Norge rose from the ground, Nobile clutched Titina tight against his chest as thousands of well wishers cheered. A green, red and white Italian sash hung around the dog’s neck. The Norge headed north and began a journey that would make Titina and Nobile household names.
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