A charming marble sculpture of a greyhound and her puppies by the artist dubbed the ‘Landseer of Marble’ has been acquired for the Barber’s collections.
‘Greyhound with Puppies’ is one of only a handful of works by Joseph Gott on display in UK public collections, and this small masterpiece is regarded as one of the artist’s best works.
The £55,000 acquisition was made possible thanks to grants of £12,500 each from Art Fund the Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant. Tomasso Brothers Fine Art made a donation of £5,000, with the remaining £25,000 coming from the Henry Barber Trust.
Gott (1786-1860) was a British-born sculptor who, having arrived in Rome in 1822 thanks to a small pension from then RA President Sir Thomas Lawrence, established a successful studio making sculptures for aristocrats travelling on the Grand Tour. It was in Rome that he was introduced to Antonio Canova.
Gott’s studio quickly forged a reputation for specialising in works featuring children and dogs – In the case of the latter, this probably stemmed from recent recently major discoveries of ancient Roman sculptures of greyhounds. These inspired well-heeled tourists to commission Gott to immortalise their own dogs in terracotta and marble.
Gott was a skilled modeller, able to capture realistic expression and gesture in his portraits, animal and human, and his smaller marbles (such as ‘Greyhound with Puppies’) retain these qualities alongside extremely sensitive carving and finishing. During his lifetime, Gott was once described as ‘the Landseer of marble.’
‘Greyhound with Puppies’ shows Gott at his best: an artist able to reference antique precedents, accurately observe living, breathing creatures and convey a warm sentiment – here, of protective maternal love and vulnerable infancy.
Director Nicola Kalinsky, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to add ‘Greyhound with Puppies’ to the Barber collection, allowing us to continue developing our small, but important, group of sculpture. Extending chronologically from an ancient Greek ‘Head of Aphrodite’, 4th century BCE, to Jean Arp’s ‘Homme vu par une Fleur’, 1958, our sculpture collection includes superlative examples of their type. However, up until now, we’ve had no neo-classical works in the collection. ‘Greyhound with Puppies’ fills that space and supports us in our aim – to present a representative display of the western art tradition through outstanding individual examples. It also joins a strong strand of animal sculpture at the Barber, offering an interesting comparison to our ‘A Rhinoceros called Miss Clara’.”
The arrival of ‘Greyhound with Puppies’ in Birmingham also serves to shine a spotlight on an artist whose work has until now only received sporadic attention or prominence in public exhibitions and collections. However, with interest in depiction of other animals now growing again, Gott’s work and cultural importance deserves fresh attention.
‘Greyhound with Puppies’ can now be seen in the Barber’s Beige Gallery, on display near Etienne Aubry’s ‘Paternal Love’, c.1775, a painted celebration of human parental love and family sentiment, and ‘A Rhinoceros called Miss Clara’, the Barber’s iconic bronze of an exotic celebrity animal (c. 1750, attributed to Verschaffelt).