The Bichon Frise in Art
A project by Edward J. Shephard Jr., with works by Franz Beckenbauer, Josh Blackwell, Marcel Dionne & A. Joakimsen, Vidya Gastaldon, Bjarne Melgaard, J. Penry
Art Since the Summer of ’69 is proud to present The Bichon Frisé in Art, a project by Edward J. Shephard Jr. Initiated as a website in 1996, the project is an exhibition of depictions of the Bichon Frisé in various works of art spanning over 2,000 years. It includes artworks that explicitly identify the subjects as Bichons or as ancestors of the breed, as well as other works that Shephard has deemed to be possible depictions of the Bichon Frisé or its ancestors. The Bichon was chosen by Shephard as a subject matter first and foremost because of his own two Bichon Frisés, but also because small white dogs have extensive presence throughout art history. This is the first time the project will be shown in a physical space.
Certain historians believe that Spanish seamen brought the Bichon breed to Tenerife and that in the 14th Century Italian sailors brought them back to the Continent. When the French invaded Italy in the 1500s, they brought many Bichon Frisé dogs back to France as war booty. The breed quickly became a great favorite with nobility. Bichons were especially popular in royal courts during the reigns of French kings Francis I and Henry III in the 16th Century.
The story goes that King Henry III was so fond of his Bichon that he carried it wherever he went in a special basket that he hung with ribbons from his neck. Bichons became favorites of Spanish royal families and of such painters as Goya, who included a Bichon in several of his paintings. Other artists who included the Bichon in their work were Titian (1490-1576) of Italy and Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), first President of the Royal Academy of England.
Dogs have been objects of portrayal in art since Ancient Times, still enjoying popularity in works by artists such as William Wegman and Jeff Koons. Picasso, David Hockney and Andy Warhol produced several portraits of their own dogs, and Futurist Giacomo Balla's infamous Leash in Motion (1912) was one of his earliest attempts to convey the illusion of regularized forward motion, from a dog-eye view. Books with these works will be on display in the gallery during the show.
Edward J. Shephard Jr., Head of Collection Development & Management in the Library at Binghamton University, has created a fascinating look at the development of the Bichon Frisé in art, working on the project through fourteen years. This historical narrative is not only a great resource for Bichon Frisé lovers, but for dog and art lovers everywhere.
The Bichon Frisé in Art website.
In addition to Shephard’s project, artists Franz Beckenbauer, Josh Blackwell, Marcel Dionne & A. Joakimsen, Vidya Gastaldon, Bjarne Melgaard and J. Penry were invited to produce new works inspired by Shephard’s website.
Franz Beckenbauer contributes the first painting from the series Women with Dogs; a girl holding a dog in front of her face. Conjuring up childhood memories, the diluted paint seems to vanish on the canvas and the girl disappears behind the central image of the composition; the white dog. Franz Beckenbauer used to work as Schade Mourgue d’Algue, see images of ‘Jardin d’Hiver II, Conan!’ at http://www.galerie1m3.com/,
Josh Blackwell’s MA Wig/Hat (2009) is a cut out paper face, with eyes attached with needles and a wig made of a hand embroidered plastic bag, based on Marie Antoinette and her puppies. Blackwell is known for his installations of plastic bags, salvaging them from indifference through the art of embroidery. www.joshblackwell.com, www.racheluffnergallery.com, http://www.katemacgarry.com
Marcel Dionne continues his work on ‘cute’, contributing a painted concrete monument to the Bichon Frisé. The work is a homage to Jeff Koons’ puppy, which Koons called the symbol of Love, Warmth and Happiness. It is interesting to note that the Bichon breed appeared in the 14th century, whereas Koons’ model, the West Highland White Terrier, is a more recent breed, born in the 18th century. http://www.artsince69.com/index.php?/project/marcel-dionne
Vidya Gastaldon includes a Bichon in one of her landscape drawings. Far from exhibiting naïvete, her drawings reflect a knowing mixture of mysticism, fantasy, and pop. Her playful treatment of signs from different origins such as Eastern religions to pop culture reflects her interest in creating a universal pictorial language that transcends the personal. www.vidyarama.com
Bjarne Melgaard contributes eight drawings done over photos of his installations from 1991 were he trained a series of Chihuahuas to sit still in different poses for periods of time while being dressed up. The Chihuahua has been in Melgaard’s paintings on and off, representing the relationship between innocence and abuse. http://www.greenenaftaligallery.com/artist/Bjarne-Melgaard
J. Penry makes black ink comic book style drawings and paintings. He is a modern day dog portraitist, working on commission. He will draw a Bichon Frisé portrait for the show, based on depictions of the dog from the 18th Century. Penry has also produced record covers for bands such as Panthers and Grizzly Bear. http://www.jpenry.com