David Salle

Walking the Dog


2 works on panel, acrylic paint, oil paint and charcoal on fabric
Support: 2188 x 2850 mm
Purchased 1982

Catalogue entry

T03444 Walking the Dog 1982

Two panels-figures: acrylic, oil and charcoal on cotton 86 1/8 × 56 1/8 (2188 × 1425), dog: acrylic and oil on linen 86 1/8 × 56 1/8 (2188 × 1425), overall dimensions 86 1/8 × 112 1/4 (2188 × 2850)
Not inscribed
Purchased from Anthony d'Offay (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Exh: Chia, Clemente, Kiefer, Salle, Schnabel, New Paintings, Anthony d'Offay, June–July 1982 (works not numbered)

‘Walking the Dog’ was painted on two supports; on the left, on cotton duck, the artist used acrylic paints to colour the ground and for the images of the body parts. On the right, on fine Belgian linen, he used cadmium oil paint to draw the woman and dog. The anatomical images are taken from magazines; the woman walking the dog is an image recalled from a nineteenth century French print that he had seen in a flea market in Paris about a month before making the painting. Salle began with the left hand panel without the impastoed areas and then painted the right hand panel. When he put them side by side he realised that the dog-walking figure ‘made the other part very poignant; in a way it made the other half alienated and sad’. He decided that he should take the image further and laid the left-hand panel on the ground and started to squeeze tubes of acrylic paint in empty spaces. These colours ‘more or less arbitarily squished together’ resemble his recollection of a 1956 painting by Jean Paul Riopelle (Canadian, b.1923) which had been reproduced in an auction catalogue that Salle had seen at a friend's house.

Two circular areas of paint occur above and to either side of the walking figure; this device has been used by Salle since 1976 in paintings that he has subsequently destroyed. Salle relates them ‘in a very simplistic (Freudian) way (to) the body orifices, they're really like two holes...’

Salle is concerned that the source of the images is not regarded as more significant than the resonances and connections that occur between the images. He describes the process of his thinking about a painting as follows (interview with the compiler 19 May 1983):

I think that a lot of work is involved with the ways in which we find ourselves calling attention to something...it goes in stages-paying attention to something, noticing that we're paying attention to something and, then, noticing both the desire and the means by which we call attention to it... It seems to me that from having to confront what's called attention to, to the way in which attention is called is...the subject of the painting.

A second version of the figure with dog appears in a painting made soon after the Tate's painting had left the studio; it is now in the collection of Raymond Learsy, New York.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986