Today’s featured painting from the AKC Museum of the Dog is “Lloyd,” by British artist Reuben Ward Binks. The portrait of a Bloodhound was originally part of the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge collection, and was a gift to the museum from Elizabeth Mendenhall.
Rueben Ward Binks, born in England in 1880, showed early promise as an artist and was allowed to study at the Manchester Art School, according to a biography at the Bonham’s Gallery. A dog lover, perhaps it was a natural progression when he began to focus much of his artistic career on dogs. One of his patrons was Lorna, Countess Howe, formerly Mrs. Quintin Dick, of Banchory Labrador Retrievers. Countess Howe was instrumental in the formation of the Labrador Club in England in 1916. Her Dual Ch. Banchory Bolo was the first dog ever to earn both a bench and a field championship, and is considered one of the most important Labs of his era. Many British and American pedigrees today trace back to him.
Binks painted a series of Countess Howe’s Labs and Springer Spaniels, and according to Bill Secord she was so pleased with his work that she encouraged him to specialize in sporting dogs. Through his association with her, he received commissions from other members of British high society.
Binks also accepted many royal commissions and painted for, among others, the Prince of Wales and King George V. He painted the king’s Clumber Spaniels, as well as Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria’s Pomeranians, Pekingese and Basset Hounds. Bonhams reported that Binks was “frequently invited to attend the Royal Shoots at Sandringham, and sketched the sporting dogs there at work.”
As Binks’ reputation as an animal artist grew, he began to travel outside England to work, twice to the United States. While here, according to Secord, he painted for several prominent fanciers, but most prolifically for Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge.
Mrs. Dodge, daughter of William Rockefeller and niece of John D. Rockefeller Sr., had a great interest in dog breeding and had established her kennel at Giralda Farms in Madison, N.J. Mrs. Dodge was known primarily for her German Shepherds, Pointers and English Cockers, but she had many other breeds as well. Having discovered the English Cocker on a trip to England, she subsequently imported 23 dogs to America, and she became instrumental in the separation of the breeds known today as the American and English Cocker Spaniels.
Mrs. Dodge was passionately devoted to the development, breeding and showing of purebred dogs. In addition to her personal breeding programs, her New Jersey estate was the location for the grand Morris & Essex dog shows from 1927 until the last show in 1957. Secord noted in “A Breed Apart” (Antique Collectors’ Club Limited, Surrey, England, 2001) that as one of her era’s most prominent fanciers, “It seemed appropriate, therefore, that she would have commissioned one of England’s most prominent animal painters to execute portraits of her champion specimens.” Binks spent nearly two years at Giralda Farm, painting more than 200 portraits of her show dogs.
Although Binks had only one exhibition in the United States during his lifetime, in 1931, Secord wrote, “The artist’s client list was a ‘Who’s Who’ of the purebred dog world.” Indeed it is through Binks’ work that fanciers today, in both the U.K. and America, have a visual reference to dogs of the past. Again from Secord: “…his work is of great historic importance in chronicling important show dogs of the early 20th century.” The majority of his paintings feature dogs in the traditional “show pose,” in full profile, facing left, so that the viewer gets an overall picture of the dog’s physical features.
Binks’ work is treasured by collectors of dog art the world over. In the fine art sale “Dogs in Show and Field,” held at Bonhams New York in February of 2012, a total of 31 Binks’ paintings were featured, including “King George V’s Clumber spaniels at Sandringham.” The American Kennel Club and the AKC Museum have many of his paintings, a number of which were donated by dog show aficionados.
The AKC Museum of the Dog is located at 1721 S. Mason Road in Queeny Park, West St. Louis County, Mo. The 14,000-square-foot museum displays more than 700 original paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, bronzes, porcelains and other objets d’art depicting dogs throughout the past several centuries. The museum grounds also house the Hope A. Levy Memorial Library, with more than 3,000 dog-related books and publications, and a gift shop.