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The popularity of animal painting increased towards the end of the eighteenth century. Animals were observed with a closer attention to nature, combined with a feeling for their individual characters. Gainsborough excelled at painting dogs and often included them in his portraits. The Pomeranians shown here belonged to his friend, the famous cellist, Carl Friedrich Abel. The painting is a particularly happy example of Gainsborough's ability to make the dogs a subject for a serious portrait in their own right.
The sensitive painting of the convolvulus flowers growing on the rock to the right reveals the artist's powers of observation, but the distant landscape is purely imaginary.

September 2004