An exhibition devoted to man’s best friend is a bit of a mongrel display of paintings and drawings that struggle to form a cohesive collection.

At the Wallace Collection, the exhibition ranges, as the title says, from Gainsborough to Hockney, taking in a very wide range of mutts along the way, so it can be said undeniably to be a very good collection of pooches and pups hanging on the wall.

Opening with what are classic Georgian landed estate portraits of a lord’s favourite dogs, it swiftly swerves to the more cute examples of the artists brush transforming the hunting working dog into a pampered bundle of fluff.

It’s been a struggle to write about this exhibition though as there seems to be something inexplicably missing from the display, and that seems to be a theme, other than “here are pictures of dogs”. It’s very good as a collection of dog pictures, but there felt to be a lack of reasoning behind the choices, other than being of dogs. The range of portraits and the range of history is considerable, but there’s no narrative to explain why these dogs and these portraits exist.

I would have loved to see a history of dog portraiture and explanations as to how and why the genre changed over the centuries.

That would have lifted the exhibition from a collection of paintings into something informative.

If you like dogs, and more importantly, paintings of dogs, this is a rare chance to see lots of them in one place.

Otherwise, it felt a bit lacking in meat.

The exhibition, Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney is at the Wallace Collection in central London until 15th October 2023.

Adult: £14 | Students (18-25): £10 | Concessions: £10 | Young person (12-17): £7 | Under 12s: Free

Tickets can be reserved here.


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