(Imprint of HarperCollins)
IN a lovely, warm foreword to this collection of dog illustrations, author Ann Patchett reflects on how lucky she herself feels to have been able to make a living doing something she loves: writing novels.
“…until this point, I’ve never thought of anything I’d have rather done with my life, but now that’s changed: I would rather have made my living drawing dogs.”
This is a compliment to the unique talent of Lucy Dawson who was at her peak in the 1930s and whose work is gathered together in this facsimile edition of the collectible 1936 classic, Dogs As I See Them.
Dawson carved out a reputation for brilliantly capturing not just the appearance but also the personalities of the dogs she sketched.
It was shortly after moving from her native Bristol to London that Dawson got her big break.
She was taken to the Royal Lodge at Windsor Castle on a commission to paint one of the family’s most beloved dogs – Dookie the Corgi.
Such was the success of the finished result that the image was chosen to grace the Windsor’s personal Christmas card that year.
Although she had the royal seal of approval, her focus remained on the four-legged friends with which she clearly had such a strong bond.
She went on to illustrate for Wills’ Cigarette Cards and a selection of Valentines’ & Sons postcards nicknamed the Tailwagger series.
Her portraits of dogs were so popular that she agreed to gather them together in a book, Dogs As I See Them.
Until now Dawson’s work has been out of print but extremely sought after by collectors.
Dawson adds her own comments to each portrait. Brief though these are, they make clear the incredible rapport she enjoyed with her doggy sitters.
She writes of Binkie: “Very, very young and quite unaccustomed to sitting on a table. Morever, the table was very slippery and only the kind attention of the owner kept him on it at all. But Binkie was fascinated with my scratchings on paper and couldn’t think why he was such an object of interest.”
Of George she writes: “A great little dog of no small importance in his home. He conscientiously guards his mistress and everything belonging to her – he would give his little life if necessary.”
While it may seem something of a curio in this day and age, the black and white illustrations are somehow timeless. The book will be of interest to hard core dog lovers and, doubtless, to artists keen to look more closely at how Dawson managed to bring these creatures to life on paper.Hector Mackenzie