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Not currently on display at the V&A

The Twa Dogs

Oil Painting
1822 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Landseer was one of the most famous and successful painters of his century, specialising in the depiction of animals usually in a Scottish setting. This early work - the artist was only nineteen years old - was painted before Landseer had visited Scotland, so he must have imagined the loch and mountain scenery. Like the pictures by Brooks and Duncan (cat.nos. 74 and 77), the painting proposes more than the portraits of two (in Scottish dialect 'twa') dogs, a Newfoundland and a collie: it refers to Robert Burns' poem 'The Twa Dogs: a Tale', the heroes of which were Caesar and Luath. In the poem, the dogs converse, not in a complimentary way, on the subject of men and their manners. In this sense, the painting is the earliest example of Landseer's anthropomorphic impulse, endowing animals with the emotions and intellects of humans. This work also displays the artist's dazzling technique; an infant prodigy with pencil and brush, Landseer was compared later by critics to the finest old masters, in this case to the great Flemish animal painter Jan Fyt.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting by Sir Edwin Landseer entitled 'The Twa Dogs', after a poem by Robert Burns. Great Britain, 1822.
Physical Description
Landseer was one of the most famous and successful painters of his century, specialising in the depiction of animals usually in a Scottish setting. This early work - the artist was only nineteen years old - was painted before Landseer had visited Scotland, so he must have imagined the loch and mountain scenery. Like the pictures by Brooks and Duncan (cat.nos. 74 and 77), the painting proposes more than the portraits of two (in Scottish dialect 'twa') dogs, a Newfoundland and a collie: it refers to Robert Burns' poem 'The Twa Dogs: a Tale', the heroes of which were Caesar and Luath. In the poem, the dogs converse, not in a complimentary way, on the subject of men and their manners. In this sense, the painting is the earliest example of Landseer's anthropomorphic impulse, endowing animals with the emotions and intellects of humans. This work also displays the artist's dazzling technique; an infant prodigy with pencil and brush, Landseer was compared later by critics to the finest old masters, in this case to the great Flemish animal painter Jan Fyt.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 43.2cm
  • Estimate width: 54cm
  • Frame dimensions height: 67.8cm
  • Frame dimensions width: 78.6cm
  • Frame dimensions depth: 10.9cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'EL/1822' (Signed and dated by the artist, lower right)
Credit line
Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857
Object history
Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857
Subjects depicted
Bibliographic References
  • Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 142-143
  • p.97Tom Ewart, Stephan Brakensiek ... [et al.] eds. Les animaux dans l'art Luxembourg : Villa Vauban, c2013. Description: 96 p. : col. ill., ports. ; 30 cm. ISBN: 9782919878024
Collection
Accession Number
FA.92[O]

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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