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Dogs on the Walls

New York gallery mounts Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge exhibit.

By Christi McDonald

The William Secord Gallery, located in New York City, is a popular annual destination for many fanciers when they visit Manhattan in February each year for Westminster. Bill Secord is a recognized authority – in fact the authority worldwide – on 19th century dog painting. His gallery, on the Upper East Side at 52 East 76th Street, is the only one in North America that features not only 18th and 19th century paintings, bronzes and works on paper of dogs and animals, but also an extensive collection of 20th century and contemporary dog art.

The interior of the William Secord Gallery in New York City. Photo courtesy Secord Gallery

Several new additions have been acquired by the gallery of late, including numerous Wire Fox Terrier oils by the English artist William Lucas-Lucas, as well as several paintings by Arthur Wardle, Rueben Ward Binks, John Emms and Maude Earl, among others. Works on paper by celebrated artist Marguerite Kirmse are also on hand. On February 11, 2012, the exhibition of the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge Collection opens.

English Setter & Pointer in the Field , oil on canvas by American artist Gustav Muss-Arnolt (1858-1927), is part of the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge Collection to be exhibited in February and March. Photo courtesy Secord Gallery.

Geraldine Dodge is a legendary figure in the world of purebred dogs. She was the founder of the Morris & Essex Kennel Club in 1927, and also its hostess at her New Jersey estate from its inception until 1957. She was a breeder of both dogs and horses under the Giralda Farms banner and a judge who presided at dog shows all over the U.S. and around the world, including Best in Show at Westminster in 1933. Perhaps most importantly she was the patroness of St. Hubert’s Giralda, a refuge for lost and injured animals that she founded on her estate in 1939. She was married to Marcellus Hartley Dodge Sr.

Geraldine Dodge founded the Morris & Essex KC, whose shows were held on the Dodge estate in New Jersey

The St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Centers are still in operation today at several locations in New Jersey. For decades fanciers could visit St. Hubert’s at Chatham Township and spend hours looking at Mrs. Dodge’s extensive collection of dog paintings, bronzes, trophies and other items.

When Mrs. Dodge passed away in 1973, she left thousands of pieces of art to the shelter. Proceeds from the sale of the 150-plus pieces included in the exhibition at the Secord Gallery will go toward expanding the shelter that she founded in Chatham Township. Expansion of the facility began in 2009, but the project is more than $2 million short of completion.

The 1906 portrait of Geraldine Rockefeller, born in 1882, by Friedrich von Kaulbach.

Geraldine Dodge was a niece of John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company and the first American worth more than one billion dollars. Rockefeller was a philanthropist who established foundations that had a major impact in medicine, scientific research and education. His brother and Geraldine Dodge’s father, William A. Rockefeller Jr., also became a Standard Oil tycoon.

Like her father and uncle, Mrs. Dodge was generous in her philanthropy. At her death, she left $85 million to create the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge Foundation, which has supported not only her animal shelters but also the arts, nature conservation and wildlife organizations. Mrs. Dodge was one of the founders of the Seeing Eye Foundation, the first American school for guide dogs for the blind, in 1929.

Cito, Benson, Jolly Bay, Charm and Clover , gouache on paper by English artist Reuben Ward Binks (1880-1950). The painting portrays five of Mrs. Dodge’s show dogs: German Shepherd ‘Cito,’ Pointer ‘Benson,’ Setter ‘Jolly Bay,’ Bloodhound ‘Charm’ and Beagle ‘Clover.’ Photo courtesy Secord Gallery.

As a breeder, Mrs. Dodge began in German Shepherds, and is often credited with helping the breed become established as a contender at the top levels of competition. She helped the English Cocker Spaniel gain recognition separate from the “American variety” of Cocker Spaniel after she imported more than two dozen English Cockers from Great Britain in the 1930s.

Blackmoor Beacon (1937), gouache on paper by Reuben Ward Binks. The English Cocker Ch. Blackmore Beacon was imported by Mrs. Dodge from England in 1936. This painting is for sale in the February exhibition. Photo courtesy Secord Gallery.

One of her imports, Ch. Blackmoor Beacon, was the first “English type” Cocker to place in the Group at an all-breed show when he was Group Second at Philadelphia in 1936. According to The English Cocker Spaniel&lt(Vol. I, p. 40): “If it is important to designate a particular dog as ‘Father’ of the American-bred English Cocker, such honor would have to go to Beacon. He sired thirteen champions and is behind nearly all American-bred English Cockers. (H)e was Mrs. Dodge’s constant companion until he died in 1949.”

Mrs. Dodge was also closely associated with Bloodhounds, Pointers, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, and Beagles through the years. Her dogs won more than 200 Best in Show awards, and she finished over 180 champions. She owned two Westminster Best in Show winners: the Pointer Ch. Nancolleth Markable, BIS in 1932, and the Doberman imported from Germany, Ch. Ferry von Rauhfelsen, Best in Show in 1935.

Mrs. Dodge with her Westminster BIS Doberman Pinscher Ch. Ferry von Rauhfelsen

Among the pieces for sale at the February exhibition are 30 silver trophies won by Mrs. Dodge’s dogs, paintings and bronzes of some of her canines, and other notable pieces

One of many trophies in the exhibition, this silver bowl was the prize when the Doberman Ch. Ferry von Rauhfelsen was BIS at International KC of Chicago in 1938. Photo courtesy Secord Gallery.

The exhibition at the Secord Gallery runs through March 24, 2012. To preview the exhibition, go to www.dogpainting.com

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.