A monumental new work ‘Dog Scaffolding Sculpture’ has been unveiled at Chatsworth as part of the Derbyshire estate’s new exhibition opening on Saturday.
Artist Ben Long, pictured above on the sculpture, was commissioned to create the new piece for ‘The Dog: A Celebration at Chatsworth’ creating a playful and alert sculpture of a dog constructed entirely from metal scaffolding.
“Part of the challenge of working in scaffolding is overcoming the inherent lifelessness of this large scale material in order to describe organic form,” explained Ben.
“While soft and cuddly is in no way achievable in steel, my ambition for Dog Scaffolding Sculpture does extend to capturing something akin to the abundant energy and playfulness that the canine species embodies.
“I wanted to make a dog because I felt it was a way to convey loyalty, guidance, protection, fun, play, acceptance, and most crucially the capacity for love. And all at a scale that would seem impossible to ignore.”
Dogs of all shapes and sizes, from royal favourites and distinguished pedigrees to determined mongrels and intelligent working dogs, feature in the exhibition.
Inspired by the Duchess of Devonshire’s love for her four-legged friends, ‘The Dog: A Celebration at Chatsworth’ explores stories of bravery and mischief, of working dogs and treasured companions through a myriad of paintings and objects from letters, snuff boxes, jewellery, sculpture and ceramics to embroideries, drawings and painted ceilings.
Star works from Constable, Stubbs, Gainsborough and Landseer sit alongside contemporary pieces by Lucian Freud, Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley and Elisabeth Frink to complete a wonderful celebration of dogs in art.
The exhibition explores more than 400 years of the enduring bond between man and his faithful friend through generations of the Cavendish family celebrating the lives of dogs intertwined with the running of a country estate.
The family’s fondness for dogs is evident; from the 1st Duke’s childhood pet, to a poem written by Duchess Georgiana in the 18th century, a recipe for dealing with a bite from a mad dog and letters between the 9th Duke and Duchess detailing the antics of their naughty puppy Punch. The 6th Duke’s many dogs, which he celebrated in commissioned portraits, are reunited alongside candid family photographs of Duchess Deborah and other family members with their dogs.
The Duchess of Devonshire, who has played a leading role in creating the exhibition, has contributed many personal pieces which celebrate her constant companions and many of the working dogs she has bred and trained.
“They are an integral part of my life and every day I see the importance of dogs reflected in the Collection at Chatsworth. When I look out into the park or walk my own dogs Max and Treacle, I am always conscious of the pleasure that so many people get from walking their dogs. I hope this exhibition gives people an opportunity to share in our love of dogs and add their own stories to this enduring relationship.”
The exhibition looks at dogs from myths and legends, in cartoons and as companions as well as the way dogs have been venerated with extravagant pieces including silver dog collars; Fabergé pieces made from precious stones including a border terrier with rose diamond eyes and even four-poster dog beds upholstered in silk velvet and chintz.
Objects from the Devonshire Collection and the family’s private collection – including pieces shown publicly for the first time – are displayed alongside loans from public and private collections. Significant lenders include the Kennel Club, Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Science and Media Museum.
For the Duchess, one of the most poignant pieces on display is a Red Cross collar, worn by a dog trained to locate dead and wounded soldiers during the First World War. Usually under the cover of night such dogs searched no man’s land between opposing trenches. The dogs were able to tell the difference between a deceased soldier and one that was unconscious. Some dogs were equipped with bottles of brandy and rope so stretcher bearers and rescue parties, including medics, could find the injured man.
Chatsworth is proud to be working with charities Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Medical Detection Dogs during 2019 to help raise awareness of their valuable work.
Jo Wengler, Fundraising Relationships Manager at Hearing Dogs, said: “We see every day the positive impact that dogs have on people’s lives. They truly do deserve to be celebrated, which is why we are delighted to be involved in The Dog: a Celebration at Chatsworth.
“Hearing dogs not only alert people to important and life-saving sounds but they provide constant emotional support and companionship, and there are many other vital roles that man’s best friend play in society, which makes it so important to memorialise them in art. We are excited for people to see the exhibition and to join us in our celebration of our four-legged friends.”
A spokesperson for Medical Detection Dogs said ” The charity is delighted to be part of the #Chatswoof exhibition as the wonder of dogs is something everyone should get to experience and the dogs we train are among the most special. Both our bio detection dogs and medical alert assistance dogs really are superheroes covered in fur.
“have a potentially life-threatening episode linked to conditions like diabetes, PoTs and severe allergies. Our bio detection dogs can sniff even the tiniest traces of diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and malaria, something which could lead to early diagnosis and better treatment.”