The Twenty-Fifth Lewis Walpole Library Lecture: What are dogs doing in eighteenth-century British art?
Professor Thomas W. Laqueur will speak about the ways in which dogs mediate human sociability and, specifically, about how they function formally in art to bind together the various elements of an image–human and material. He will discuss images of dogs in the studies of scholars, including the portrait of Walpole and his dog in the library at Strawberry Hill. He will then discuss other contexts in which the topic may be understood: from the paintings of Carpaccio and Rubens to those in the eighteenth century and later; dogs in eighteenth-century British art, from Hogarth’s “Self Portrait” to the many family scenes of the period; and, more generally, dogs in art as they constitute part of a symbolic system—-world making and critical in our social cognition. A short coda on interpreting Balak, the most famous dog in Hebrew literature, in the Israeli Nobel Prize–winning novelist Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s greatest novel–Only Yesterday–will get us back to Walpole in his study and the question the lecture poses: what are all those dogs doing in eighteenth-century British art?