William Poundstone
William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

Putting on the Dog

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There’s a reason why Mickey Mouse has four fingers and Eric Cartman wears mittens. Generations of art students have learned that the hand is one of the most difficult parts of the anatomy to draw. The Huntington’s one-room exhibition, “A Show of Hands,” displays several generations of British artists’ attempts to represent the human hand. The outlier is Edwin Landseer’s studies of a dog’s paw, done when he was a very young British artist—age 14.

Landseer made use of drawings like the Huntington’s in schmaltzy animal paintings like Dignity and Impudence (1839, below). Hugely successful with the public, and taken seriously by Victorian critics, Landseer became a joke in the 20th century. In the 1969 film version of Terry Southern’s The Magic Christian, John Cleese plays an auctioneer who knocks down Dignity and Impudence to boorish Americans. The Americans buy it at a ridiculously inflated price, and Cleese—in the employ of billionaire trickster Guy Grand—destroys the painting in front of the bidders’ eyes. Among the real-life Americans conservative enough to buy Landseer was William Randolph Hearst—whose A Group of Animals, Geneva ended up at LACMA.

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  1. by Cate Conroy

    Awwww! Soooooo cute!!! Wait…sophisticated art connoisseurs aren’t supposed to like this one.
    [Note to self: Facebook-style "share with 500 of my closest friends" dog paintings = "schmaltzy"]

  2. by Cate Conroy

    Speaking of four fingers, where’s Frazell?

  3. Dealing with the crazies as usual. Artistes ugh. And of course salesmen, narcissists and sociopaths. Oh well, they gotta do sumthin harmless to keep them out of trouble, and out of the way of making life live. Hope all is well Cate. Will probably start drawing horses as wife is to start taking classes at the local stables.
    Always drew hands well myself, though I don’t do shading, always use pure line as most dont understand it is three things at once. Enclosing form, energized line itself, and creating shapes and forms outside of the “motif” as relationships are energy and space. In otherwords, everything.
    By the way I am oldschool, only 40 FB”friends” as I dont have any I havent met or at least talked with on the phone. Most I know dont do it at all, we are grownups afterall.

  4. by Sepp Seligmann

    Mr. Poundstone, I would be interested in a post of yours on what you think are great dog paintings.

  5. Three Musicians. (MoMA)
    Dog in Quicksand (Goya)
    Bathtubs (various, Bonnard)
    A dog in motion(by one of the futurists, Boccioni or Severini, the only good ones)
    Barking Dogs (Tamayo)
    Dog Barking at the Moon (Miro)

  6. by Cate Conroy

    I miss arguing with you, DF! I’m doing okay. Have trouble sleeping sometimes (note my late PM, early AM comments). Left a note on your blog the other day. Your latest painting is coming along well. Beautiful! Give my best to Aldeana.

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