A new exhibition is coming to a London art gallery, which is sure to be of interest to dog lovers – and fans of their relation, Painted Dogs.
‘Wings and Brushstrokes’, by Michelle Pearson Cooper, features stunning portraits of diverse breeds, from the Japanese Akita to the Labrador. Crossbreeds are catered for too in the form of a beautiful portrait of Samur, the former Icelandic president’s dog, a cross between a German and Icelandic Sheepdog (below).
It’s no surprise, then, that artist Michelle Pearson Cooper is a big dog lover. She has two Lurchers of her own, Wizard (11 years) and Brodie (2), and says Lurchers make perfect companions for artists, chilling calmly in the studio.
“They will sleep for hours and are very peaceful, but when walking they are very exciting to watch. Clean too, not greedy, but steal beautifully and very intelligent. I am attracted to painting and drawing cheetah too, of which they have a lot in common with their speed and lung capacity to reach up to 40mph in long dogs and 70mph in cheetah.”
Dogs have always been an important part of Michelle’s life, and she has enjoyed capturing their unique personalities.
“I’ve always loved painting dogs, as I’ve grown up with them from a bad-tempered Jack Russell, which we adopted in Germany when I was a baby and my father was stationed there, to a series of black Labradors that my father loved particularly (many I painted as birthday presents for him over the years).
“My mother had a Miniature Smooth-haired Dachshund called Samson (I experimented with pastels for his portrait, but it’s a medium I found out early on that I didn’t like using) and then adopted a couple of small dogs and a Lancashire Heeler, but by that time I was 21 and having my first exhibition, a solo show in Bond Street, and receiving my first commission from David Palmer, a close friend, to paint a Springer Spaniel for his father, Richard Palmer (of Huntley & Palmer) and my life as a professional artist took off!”
It certainly did! And not just in the UK but globally.
“Since 1979, I have painted dogs all around the world and will be travelling to Geneva next month to have a sitting with my next subject. The last time I was there, a few years back, was to paint five dogs for Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan.
“I love painting dogs they are – and have been – a constant companion throughout my life.”
“Our first Lurcher, Bertie, was an engagement present to ourselves, with cream soft fur, a very sensitive dog and gentle with our young children. Since then, we have had a brindle rescue, Shadow, who had ‘issues’… then Blue, who had a dark blue/black broken coat and four white paws. Blue was gentle but had the typical Lurcher temperament and wouldn’t stand for any nonsense from the children or other dogs and gently made sure everyone knew their place – a good, loyal teacher, who showed our next dog, Wizard, the ropes…
“Wizard is the fourth I’ve owned, who I got as a puppy. His mother was discovered tied to a post on the Downs with a broken leg and rescued by friends, who took her to the vet to then be informed that a litter of 11 were imminent! The mother was a large, black, smooth-coated Greyhound with tan Saluki ‘feathers’ on the tail and ears; the father, we believe, was an Irish Wolf/Deerhound cross that we spotted at a traveller fair some months later… identical to Wizard and most his litter.
“Wizard is a powerful looking dog who we’ve all adored and thankfully now past the best of his coursing years; although interested to watch the hare and deer in motion, he has sensibly realised that his speed is not what it used to be, unlike a recently adopted smaller Lurcher, Brodie, who is only two and a half and as fast as lightning!
“Brodie’s former owner realised that after his business took off and he was needing to travel, after the pandemic was over, he could no longer give him the attention that a dog requires. It was a heartbreaking decision for him, but we had recently lost our old faithful yellow Labrador and after our daughter had connected us, it seemed that fate had stepped in.
“We knew that a puppy wouldn’t work with an old Deerhound Lurcher, who we had nearly lost two months before with a virus, but after being on a drip for two days and nights, he rallied and has a very good bond with Brodie, who is smaller, with a slightly rougher coat and probably a bit more Whippet and maybe a bit of Bedlington Terrier in his gene pool.
“Brodie pushes the boundaries, but Wizard keeps him in check and on walks he is more often on a long lead, with a tracker on his collar, until we get to a fenced-in field where there is no evidence of a something to chase. Brodie has certainly rejuvenated our very special senior dog for whom he a good connection and healthy respect!”
Listening to Michelle talking about her beloved Lurchers, it’s clear she’s a dog lover through and through – and it’s a passion that’s evident in her work too. And it’s not just pet dogs that feature. Visitors to her exhibition will also find some striking oil paintings of Painted Dogs, observed in the South African bush in the Eastern Cape.
“Painted Dogs are also known as Wild Dogs and Cape Hunting Dogs with no two having the same markings,” says Michelle. “They hunt in a pack are very social and are found in the Kruger National Park but their population is being severally reduced as they pose a threat to the farming stock.”
Artist: Michelle Pearson Cooper
Dates: 18 October – 11 November 2023
Location: Osborne Studio Gallery, 2 Motcomb St, Belgravia, London SW1X 8JU
Entry: Free admission to the gallery