The present work is datable to c.1775, the year Stubbs began exhibiting at the Royal Academy after achieving particular success in London at the Society of Artists, of which he was president in 1772-73. Over a quarter of Stubbs' exhibits at the Royal Academy for the next eight years were portraits of dogs, reflecting not only the public demand for such works (the artist's chief income came from commissions), but also his growing fascination with the animal. Judy Egerton has observed that 'in these, Stubbs allowed the dog (often treated with more humour than the horse) to command the space'.
On recent examination of this picture, Judy Egerton has noted that the inclusion of an ancient castellated tower rising above a lake is almost identical to a detail in the background of Stubbs' Portrait of a Horse named Euston, belonging to Mr Wildman, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1775. It is an unusual feature that appears to be unique to these works. In both pictures, the tower is finely painted in grisaille, though what associations it might once have had now appear to be lost.
The dog's age is uncertain, and its breed indeterminate. It is not a spaniel, although it resembles a Blenheim spaniel in its red and white colouring. The head is closer to that of a hound or gun dog, and the dog's body has something of the form of a collie. Clearly a cross-breed of sorts, its somewhat overgrown, or perhaps elderly, appearance suggests some years of service in the field, in which the dog has lost none of its alertness. Its ruffled coat is exquisitely suggested: Stubbs excelled at painting animals as he saw them, rather than for their immaculate grooming.
We are very grateful to Mrs Judy Egerton for her assistance with this catalogue entry.